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Pilgrims Hospice's inpatient ward in London Road, Canterbury to stay open, charity bosses announce in stunning u-turn

By Lowri Stafford

The Pilgrims Hospice's inpatient centre in Canterbury WILL stay open, charity chiefs announced today.

In a stunning u-turn, chairman of the charity’s board of trustees, Dr Richard Morey, said: "We have listened to the clearly expressed views of local people and recognise the desire for a change of emphasis in our plans – as long as these can be staffed and funded.

"Over the summer months, the hospice will keep you updated about its plans and how people can help.

The Pilgrims Hospice in London Road, Canterbury

"We are planning to do this through the media, our website and meetings with supporter groups.

"Please give us the time, patience and understanding that we now need to establish how we can achieve our common aim of maintaining beds in Canterbury as well as in Thanet and Ashford.

"We need your support now more than ever.

"Meanwhile, as well as planning for the future, please be assured we will continue with 'business as usual' providing a gold-standard service for local people and their loved ones at the end of life."

The announcement follows an outpouring of opposition to proposals to close the 16 inpatient beds at the London Road site.

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

Earlier this week, trustees said they were "extremely concerned" about the strong feelings expressed by hundreds who attended an emotionally-charged public meeting at Canterbury Academy.

Hundreds of frustrated campaigners battling to save the unit stormed out of the meeting on Friday, May 30, after Dr Morey said it was not a consultative meeting, but merely a presentation of the trust's views.

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

Pilgrims Hospice, Canterbury

Until this week, charity bosses had stood their ground over the planned closure, despite growing pleas for them to change their minds.

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

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

Today, hospice chiefs pledged to keep inpatient beds open at its sites in Canterbury, Margate and Ashford - but are yet to confirm how many will remain.

Julian Brazier, MP for Canterbury and Whitstable, welcomed the statement, saying he was "over the moon".

Former Canterbury and Whitstable MP Sir Julian Brazier

He added: "Full marks to the Trustees for listening. I'm delighted to hear that they are hoping to keep beds open on all three sites.

"Clearly there is still a financial deficit to address. My concern now will be to help in any way I can with ideas they have for plugging the financial gap.

"Full marks to the Trustees for listening" - MP Julian Brazier

"I shall be working with them in any way I can to help.

"I very much hope that all of the people out there that love the Canterbury hospice will now assist in every way they can as so many of them have done in the past in fundraising and assisting in so many different ways.

"It's really important we don't snatch a disaster out of the teeth of a good outcome by seeing funding drop and the operation struggle. It's still tough times for charities, we've really got to rally round now."

Editor's blog: Let's get behind our hospice. Click here

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