Hospices are planning for the huge challenges and changes facing them in relation to how they deliver services and the way in which they work with their colleagues in the NHS. Hospices are having to focus on what is essential because of the financial implications. Hannah Wade and Sandra Hamovic hosted an online forum and were joined by 7 Hospice CEOs. This forum focused on the restoration and recovery programme for the next 18 months to two years. Three key themes discussed were: Fundraising, Retail Operations and Volunteers.
Hospices are looking at the next 12 months and considering new models for fundraising and the skills they will need for that function going forward.
It’s a mixed picture in terms of income performance across the hospice sector with some hospices reporting huge gaps in income, and others saying that they are doing better than this time last year. Unfortunately, some are saying they will not survive, even with the funding that's come via Hospice UK.
A CEO from a children’s hospice commented that they had to take immediate steps to address a potential 90% shortfall in fundraising income. They launched an emergency appeal on day one and are now rationalising all their services. Necessity has made them take those steps to ensure they exist in the future. They have already designed a new care model for next 12-18 months and whilst they’re taking pretty drastic measures they feel it is prudent to do so.
The retail sector is starting to re-open and hospices are having to plan for how and when they re-open their shops to generate some income. A lot of this depends on geography but for most it will be a phased approach. Many hospice CEOs are having conversations with retail landlords around rent reduction. They simply cannot afford to pay the same rent they paid before.
The consensus is that a lot of people are going to be nervous about shopping in charity shops. Another challenge for hospices is how they will staff their shops. Most are being cautious by not asking volunteers back initially, as many of them sit in a high-risk group so won’t be able to come back. Therefore, relying on shop managers and a small number of paid staff to ensure the right measures are being adhered to will be difficult.
Overall, the plan is to un-furlough the managers and give them time to put in place a different way of working. During the test period, they will operate with no volunteers to give paid staff time to make sure processes and procedures work. Some high streets are busy and the fear for some is being the last one to open on the high street. Decisions are being based on areas that are the busiest rather than the site of the shop.
Some hospices are even planning to open new/additional charity shops and have shops in the pipeline. They believe once we hit recession, there will be a demand for charity shops. Getting the rents right however will be key!
It also became apparent that those who do not yet have an online presence will need to think about launching online retail operations as a matter of priority.
The question was asked about how people felt about volunteers coming back as most of them fall in the vulnerable, if not severely venerable categories. Hospices are wondering whether the sector will see a fall in numbers of volunteers.
One hospice did a telephone survey to gauge how their volunteers are feeling and about 90% of volunteers can’t wait to come back, they want to be busy. They want reassurance that PPE will be provided but they want to be back. The loyalty is certainly still there.
Whilst the sector is facing some of its biggest challenges ever, it is certainly not all doom and gloom. There are many opportunities and this crisis has been the strength in the armour that some needed to make the necessary changes. The sector had been moving more towards community care in any case so there is even less need now for a building. Some hospices believe a lot of their staff will never return to working in the hospice and will continue to work remotely, so they are planning for a new future and a different way of working.
Sandra Hamovic and Hannah Wade of Berwick Partners
Sandra specialises in hospices, healthcare and health condition charities across London and the South and Hannah for the Midlands and the North.