HOSPISCARE chief executive Glynis Atherton has thanked volunteers and supporters for enabling the charity to care for more than 2,000 terminally ill patients in the past year.
She was speaking after the charity published its 2011/12 annual report, highlighting the scale of palliative care services it has delivered for people nearing the end of their lives – and the huge amount of fundraising needed to ensure this continues.
During the year Hospiscare nurses helped 1,790 patients in the community across Exeter, Mid and East Devon, and 324 people were admitted to its in-patient unit.
In total, the charity's staff and volunteers made 14,520 visits to patients, carers and other professionals in the community.
Its hospital team made 1,668 visits to patients and carers, and its bereavement service supported 1,167 patients and their families.
"I want to say a huge thank-you to people who hold events for us, who make gifts to us, who shop in our shops or who leave us money in their wills," said Glynis. "Without that, we just couldn't do what we do."
Hospiscare spent just under £4.9m in the financial year – 88 per cent of which went directly to pay for patient care.
Its income totalled just over £5m, with nearly £2.8m of this coming from voluntary funding, including donations, legacies and money raised at events.
A grant from NHS Devon, coupled with payment for specialist palliative care provided to the Royal Devon & Exeter Foundation Trust, accounted for just a quarter of Hospiscare's income. The charity's shops and weekly lottery raised nearly £795,000, or 16 per cent of its total income.
On the fundraising challenges faced by Hospiscare, Glynis said: "Like everybody else we are feeling the impact of recession. We have incredible volunteers, supporters and fundraisers, and we are extremely well supported by the community.
"We are incredibly grateful for that but this year in particular has proved to be quite difficult. For very good reasons, people just aren't able to be as generous as they would like."
Hospiscare is celebrating 30 years since it was founded by Dr John Searle, during which time it has cared for more than 20,000 patients and their families. It started with one nurse, Jill Pettitt, helping people in Exeter in their own homes.
In 1992, the charity's 12-bed hospice in Dryden Road opened and became its main hub, although the vast majority of patients are still cared for in their own homes.
And last year Hospiscare opened Pine Lodge, its new day hospice in Tiverton. Together, the charity's volunteers give more than 3,500 hours a week. Their contribution was recognised with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2011.
Looking to the future, Hospiscare plans to expand its services, including the rapid response team being piloted in Exeter, which helps patients return home from hospital to spend their final days or hours in comfortable surroundings with their loved ones.
"It's been a very good year to mark 30 years of operating in Exeter, Mid and East Devon," said Glynis.
"The anniversary is very significant but we are really working on making sure we are going to be able to do this for the next 30 years, and that's going to be a very different landscape."
Hospiscare's popular Tree of Light service of remembrance takes place at Exeter Cathedral from 4pm to 6pm on Sunday, December 9. Other services of light are being held in St Thomas, Exmouth, Seaton, Ottery St Mary, Broadclyst, Crediton, Tiverton and Okehampton.
More details are available from Susie Healey on 01392 688020 or by visiting www.hospiscare.co.uk/events.