Published: 10:00, 31 May 2014
| Updated: 15:34, 31 May 2014
Frustrated campaigners battling to save beds at Canterbury's Pilgrims Hospice walked out of a meeting in disgust after a gaffe by trust chairman Dr Richard Morey.
An estimated 500 people turned up at Canterbury High School on Friday but three quarters of them walked out when Dr Morey said it wasn't a consultative meeting merely a presentation of the Trust's views.
He had already apologised for the total failure to communicate with local people.
Dr Morey said:"I offer a public apology for the poor way in which we have handled communications and public relations.
"We should have done better. In short we have let you down."
The chairman of trustees was backed by Chief Executive Steve Auty and senior physician Dr Claire Butler but nobody supported them from the floor.
Dr Morey said the trust planned to enter partnerships with the local NHS and care homes but would not shut any of the 16 hospice beds at Canterbury until these arrangements were in place.
He said urgent action was needed to cut the £1 million a year deficit the trust is running up.
Many of the protestors said trying to treat patients in their own home rather than in a hospice or in partnership with the NHS wouldn't work.
Dr Martin Garsid said:"You say people prefer to die at home but when push comes to shove you need a safe place for patients to go to.
"Hospitals are in freefall. Primary care is disjointed.The out of hours service is bordering on incompetent."
He accused the Trust of holding a closed discussion reliant on what outside consultants had told them.
Dr Garsid said: "We want truth not deception. On May 6 none of the nursing staff or volunteers was aware of this.
"If we can look after dying patients in Nigeria we can look after them in London Road.
"Canterbury is where Pilgrims Hospice was born and where we have grown. If you decapitate Canterbury it is where it will die."
Veteran campaigner Peggy Pryer said the people of Canterbury had fought for their health services in the past and that the trust hadn't bothered to contact the local branch of the Royal College of Nursing about their plans.
She said:"Be prepared for a fight.We will keep our hospice."
Ex Kent and Canterbury consultant Bob Heddle said if hospice beds ended up in NHS wards then restrictions would have to be put on their use.
He said:"The temptation would be to use them for other things.The principal of dying with dignity would be lost.Also you don't know what's around the corner.
"The last government tried to close Kent and Canterbury Hospital. You could get a hospital closed by diktat. You need to make sure you have dedicated beds outside the NHS otherwise you will be encroached upon."
Afterwards Julian Brazier said: "The crucial thing is we have had a pledge to keep hospice care beds in Canterbury and that they won't be closed unless there is replacement capacity.
"These beds have to be ring fenced to ensure they have no other use."
Mr Brazier said the trustees must be more accountable to the public if the charity is to survive.
He said:"The chairman of the trustees could have chosen his words more carefully."
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