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First beds at Pilgrims Hospice in Canterbury to go this year in planned closure as MP Julian Brazier set to host public meeting

By Gerry Warren

The closure of beds at Canterbury's Pilgrims Hospice will start this year – three years before the charity claimed it would.

Its chief executive Steve Auty has revealed three of the centre's 16 beds would be lost, followed by a further three next year before the complete closure in 2016.

He said the decision had been "hugely difficult" but hoped to explain the reasoning at a public meeting due to be held at Canterbury High School tonight.

The Pilgrims Hospice in London Road, Canterbury
The Pilgrims Hospice in London Road, Canterbury

There has been a massive backlash against the plans, with more than 17,250 people signing a petition and dismayed hospice volunteers forming an action group to challenge the decision.

Mr Auty said: "This is a hugely emotive topic but residents will have a chance to understand how and why we reached this decision, and allow us to address any worries they may have."

The meeting is being chaired by Canterbury MP Julian Brazier, who has already urged the charity to find another way of keeping the 16 beds open.

Mr Auty will be supported by other senior managers and medical staff on the top table.

He said: "It was a hugely difficult decision.

"After a series of discussions, meetings and workshops, involving staff and volunteers, we were faced with the sad reality that we could not keep it open without seriously compromising our intention to meet increasing demand by taking more care into all the other settings where people are dying."

Former Pilgrims Hospice chief executive Steve Auty who stepped down.
Former Pilgrims Hospice chief executive Steve Auty who stepped down.

Mr Auty added: "Taking this very difficult step will also allow us to maintain and expand our day centres, outreach and other services.

"We will do our utmost to make sure the unit's closure impacts on as few people as possible.

"I appreciate that travelling to Ashford or Thanet may be an issue for patients and their families from our Canterbury catchment area.

"But we will do our best to provide travel and accommodation support where we can.

"Our doors will always be open to those who have an emotional tie to London Road.

"We plan to keep the memory path in place, and anyone who wishes to come and visit to remember any family or friends who spent their final days with us will always be welcome."

The public meeting in Canterbury about the future of the hospice - which has been providing palliative care for more than 30 years - will start at 7pm.

To book a place, phone 01227 782064 or email meetingbookings@pilgrimshospices.org.

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