THE long-term financial viability of Barnsley Hospice has been brought into question after a report revealed its running costs will grow by almost £1m in the coming year.
Hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic when fundraising events stopped for large spells of 2020 and 2021 due to multiple periods of lockdown, the hospice’s operational costs for 2023/24 are set to surpass the £5.4m barrier - a rise of £950,000 from this year’s £4.48m.
A report compiled by the hospice’s executive leadership team - which will go before Barnsley Council’s overview and scrutiny panel on Tuesday - praises the Gawber facility’s turnaround having gone from the Care Quality Commission’s lowest-performing ‘special measures’ category to top-rated ‘outstanding’ in just a year.
However, the Chronicle can reveal hospice bosses are now seeking to work with partners in the town to grow income and assess ‘cost-sharing opportunities’.
The report said: “The cost of running the hospice has increased over the last three years.
“We have secured a 20 per cent increase to the NHS grant for the year 2023/24, however we are facing considerable financial pressures and the long-term financial viability of the hospice is a concern.
“Expenditure for this last year is £1.393m more than our income and this financial gap has been covered from hospice financial reserves.
“As identified, the long-term financial viability of the hospice is a concern and we are working with our commissioners to look at opportunities to grow our commissioned income and seeking to identify business development opportunities.
“In addition, we are seeking to identify cost-sharing opportunities with other organisations.
“As well as working in a lean and efficient way as much as possible, whilst still maintaining the highest standards of care and services, we will need to work especially hard to maximise our income through fundraising and retail activities.”
Fundraisers are responsible for covering about 30 per cent of the hospice’s total costs but when the pandemic struck in March 2020, the cull of its events programme saw it lose more than £2,000 a day.
However, despite the pandemic, the hospice only posted losses in 2022/23 - which had a £1.39m deficit - but for the three years prior profits were recorded.
The report suggests a refresh of its leadership team - which saw a host of staffing changes when the CQC plunged the hospice into special measures - has attributed to the extra costs, as well as the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
It added: “As a charitable hospice we raise the bulk of our funding through support from our local community and for the past eight years we have received a £1.5m grant from the NHS.
“For the year 2022/23 the money received from the NHS covered 34 per cent of the hospice’s total costs.
“We have significant fixed costs but considerable uncertainty around the amount and timing of our income.
“For example, during the Covid- 19 pandemic we had to close our retail hub and our fundraising events had to be cancelled.
“The hospice has also been hit this year by the soaring cost-of-living increases experienced by everyone in the UK including energy, fuel, food and the cost of paying a fair wage to our dedicated staff.
“There has also been significant investment in our staffing resource which has provided an increase in leadership, governance and high-quality care provision.”