An improved offer of support for Bethesda Hospice in Stornoway has been made by Western Isles Integration Joint Board (IJB), which is responsible for funding health and social care services in the community.

The IJB is a partnership between NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, which manages funding agreements for the hospice and other care services including community nursing, social care and GP services.

An earlier agreement proposed by the IJB, offering an increase of 3% per year for three years, was rejected by Bethesda’s board of directors. 

The IJB have proposed both to increase and to ‘front-load’ their support to Bethesda, suggesting a first year increase of £10,000, or 5.35%, over the previous year’s baseline, backdated to April 1st 2019.

The proposed funding agreement also included an annual uplift for the next two years (2020/21 and 2021/22) in line with the increase provided to NHS Western Isles by the Scottish Government, currently predicted to be 2.5%.

Bethesda’s accounts show the amount of income provided to the hospice by public donations and fundraising falling in the last financial year.

To plan for the possibility of this continuing, the IJB added a ‘break clause’ to their proposed agreement suggesting that, should Bethesda’s audited accounts indicate two successive years of financial deficit, then the IJB would reopen negotiations about the funding provided.

The new funding arrangement would be contingent on Bethesda agreeing the new Service Level Agreement (SLA) for hospice care, which governs the service expected by the Health Board.

However, the IJB undertook that the Health Board would waive additional efficiency targets, which normally form part of the SLA and which are automatically applied to internal budgets.

In recent weeks there has been substantial public concern about the future of Bethesda, with politicians of all parties calling for greater support for the hospice. Bethesda has asked their supporters to lobby both Alasdair Allan MSP and Jeane Freeman, Scottish government cabinet secretary for health and sport, to ask that Bethesda Hospice funding should be at a level to enable it to continue with the current service.

The directors of Bethesda Hospice met last Wednesday (August 14th) to discuss the new offer and are understood to have informed the IJB that they are rejecting the new proposal.

The Integrated Joint Board will discuss the situation further at their next meeting on September 26th.