Acorns has begun a consultation with our staff on a proposal to cease offering services from our children’s hospice facility in Walsall, which opened in 1999. If this proposal is confirmed, all children and families currently receiving their care from the Walsall hospice will be invited to access the services at one of our other two children’s hospices, located in Birmingham and Worcester. Our absolute priority will be to demonstrate to these families that they will still be able to receive the high standards of care from Acorns that they are used to receiving at our Walsall hospice.
If this proposal is implemented, families attending Walsall will over the next few weeks be given information and support on how Acorns would hope to welcome and care for their child at either our Birmingham or our Worcester hospice. We recognise and regret the anxiety and disappointment this proposal will cause families currently accessing our services at Walsall, and we will dedicate ourselves to listening and supporting the families in every way that we can. The families are the reason that we exist.
Based on geography and travel times, this proposal anticipates approximately two thirds of families currently using our Walsall hospice being invited to receive their residential stays and services in future from our children’s hospice in Birmingham, and one third from our children’s hospice in Worcester. Acorns will provide these families continued access to our community services through our Family Service and Outreach.
We have no choice but to make this proposal now because, despite the tremendous goodwill and support that Acorns has always and continues to enjoy from the local communities where we work, the costs of providing high quality children’s hospice care are rising every year, and are currently outstripping our ability to raise all the funds we need to sustainably run three separate children’s hospices. Trends in average annual bed usage at all three hospices has declined slightly in recent years as a result. This raises the possibility that comparable numbers of residential stays could be provided in the future from two hospices.
In common with many other hospices, we spent in the last financial year significantly more on delivering our care than we raised from our shops and our supporters, and from our partnership with the NHS. In the year just ended, we have been able to make up the shortfall from our charitable reserves, which are kept for that purpose. However, this is not sustainable, not least given the economic uncertainty ahead. We have worked hard over the past two years to try and secure additional funding and to reduce our costs, but we have reached the stage where a major change in our delivery model is now necessary.
The criteria used for making our Walsall hospice the focus of this proposal are set out inside this document. We acknowledge and sincerely regret that this proposal will be devastating for our colleagues and volunteers who have made the Acorns Children’s Hospice in Walsall the very special place it is today. During the consultation period, we will be supporting them and talking to them about options should this go ahead, including redeployment for some of them to be based from one of our other hospices.
We could not be more proud of our Acorns Children’s Hospice in Walsall, and of our staff and volunteers there. This proposal is therefore made with great regret, but in the belief that it is necessary to secure sustainable children’s hospice care for families across the region, for decades to come.