A Hospice covering Herefordshire and its borders has cared for more people since April than in any six-month period in its near-40-year history.

St Michael’s Hospice, which is based in Bartestree, near Hereford, says 1,560 people have received its expert free-of-charge care in the last six months.

The figure covers patients in the charity’s Inpatient Unit, those attending Day Services, and people who are receiving care in their own home.

St Michael’s Chief Executive Mike Keel says the news clearly underlines the increasing demand for hospice services.

“We have always said that at St Michael’s Hospice we will always work hard to reach the people who need our vital help and support, and these latest figures show we are doing that more than ever before,” said Mr Keel.

“Despite this news though, we know there are still people in our community who might benefit from the services provided by St Michael’s, who we are yet to meet. People are living longer, but unfortunately, not all of us enjoy perfect health at the end of our life and this is where our expertise can help people have the best quality of life for as long as they can, and not be left to suffer.”

St Michael’s provides free-of-charge palliative and end-of-life care, plus support for loved ones. Mr Keel says, sadly, a lot of people think only those diagnosed with a cancer condition can access Hospice services, but in fact almost half of St Michael’s patients have non-cancer conditions such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.  

In the three months to the end of June this year, St Michael’s accepted more than 300 new referrals. Almost half these patients (45 per cent) had a non-cancer diagnosis.

During the last financial year, 85% of the charity’s £9.5m spend was funded by the community. This comes from a variety of routes, including supporters taking part in Hospice events; visiting the charity’s shops; playing the St Michael’s Hospice Lottery, and leaving gifts in Wills.  

Last month, Mr Keel reassured supporters following a report by Hospice UK which warned of a £47m gap nationally between the statutory funding hospices should have received to keep pace with inflation, and the actual money handed over.

“Clearly, the national picture as highlighted by Hospice UK is a concerning one,” said Mr Keel.“Fortunately, the situation at St Michael’s is less dire, thanks in no small part to our wonderful community of fundraisers and shoppers, who continue to support us, despite feeling the pinch themselves. Without the generosity of the community, we simply could not provide the care we deliver every day. 

“However, with the cost-of-living increases, it’s unrealistic to expect supporters to be able to keep pace with inflation and cover our rising costs at the Hospice, when they’ve got their own bills to pay.

“Health and social care systems now have a legal duty to provide palliative care services to their communities, and receive funding from central government to do this. We’re very grateful for the statutory funding we receive, but like many other hospices, we do feel the Hospice should receive a fair allocation that also reflects the increasing contribution St Michael’s is making to local services.” 

Next year marks 40 years since St Michael’s first opened its doors, back in October 1984.

To find out how your vital support can make a difference to St Michael’s Hospice, just visit https://www.st-michaels-hospice.org.uk/get-involved/