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Pilgrims Hospice trustees review plans to close inpatient unit in London Road in Canterbury amid outpouring of opposition

By Lowri Stafford

An outpouring of opposition to plans to close Pilgrims Hospice in Canterbury has prompted charity bosses to reconsider.

Trustees were "extremely concerned" about the strong feelings expressed by hundreds who attended an emotionally-charged public meeting at Canterbury Academy last week.

Reacting to the news, Canterbury and Whitstable MP Julian Brazier (Con) said: "It is welcome news the trustees are having a rethink.

"While they are a charity and not as accountable as say an organisation in the NHS, they seem to realise they must have public support for what they want to do in order to carry on raising money."

A Facebook campaign group attracting 13,000 followers and a petition with 18,500 signatures have placed further pressure on charity chiefs to rethink the proposals.

The Pilgrims Hospice in Canterbury was earmarked for closure

The charity has today decided to postpone further public meetings while the trustees "review their plans" for in-patient beds at the Canterbury site.

In a statement, chairman of the board of trustees Dr Richard Morey said: "Firstly we would like to thank our supporting community for attending our first public meeting in Canterbury.

"We are becoming painfully aware of how our incredibly loyal supporters feel about the Future Hospice Programme and we want them all to know that we are re-visiting the proposed programme this coming Thursday evening with a view to finding solutions to the problems that we are currently facing.

Dr Richard Morley, chairman of the trustees at a meeting on the future of the Pilgrims Hospice in Canterbury

"The trustees and myself have been reading letters full of heartfelt concern from our supporters and we have been alerted to the Facebook campaign and petition, all of which has prompted us to take immediate action."

Trustee Sarah Andrews CBE, a close friend of Pilgrims Hospice founder Ann Robertson OBE, said: "I was extremely concerned at the depth of public feeling I witnessed last Friday.

"As a result, we are taking this matter very seriously indeed. We must listen to our supporting community and that is the right way forward."

People leave the hall when the meeting was described as a presentation on the future of the Pilgrims Hospice in Canterbury

Hundreds of frustrated campaigners battling to save the unit stormed out of the meeting on Friday, May 30, after a gaffe by Dr Morey.

Three quarters of the 500 people left when he said it was not a consultative meeting, but merely a presentation of the trust's views.

Speaking today, Dr Morey added: "We acknowledge that we have not communicated sufficiently to date and will be rectifying this matter by communicating to our supporting community more regularly through the local media and also through social media using Facebook."

He added: "We will do our very best for the community in these challenging circumstances and start to communicate some of the important issues that the charity is currently facing."

The Pilgrims Hospice in London Road, Canterbury

Until now, charity bosses have stood their ground over the planned closure of the 16-bed care unit in London Road, despite growing pleas for them to change their minds.

They claim the centre – which opened in 1982 – is "no longer fit for purpose" and the closure will save £500,000 a year.

Instead they want to expand hospice care in the community, with staff visiting patients in their own homes, nursing homes and hospitals.

Public meetings to planned in Margate this evening and Ashford on Thursday, June 19 have now been put on hold while they review the plans.

What do you think? Join the debate below.

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