HOSPICE officials yesterday confirmed they were consulting with staff on ways to maintain essential services against a backdrop of fundraising being decimated due to the Covid-19 crisis.

St Teresa’s Hospice has been forced to explore options to maximise value for money at a time when charitable events have been wiped out by the pandemic.

Back in January, even before coronavirus struck, more than 80 per cent of hospices nationally were predicting deficits as charitable giving took a nose dive.

St Teresa's was one of these, and back in March the hospice launched an emergency appeal as its calendar of fundraisers was obliterated by lockdown measures.

Some day services also had to be suspended because of guidelines around social distancing whilst others were able to take place over the telephone or via video conferencing.These have proved so successful that they will continue remotely in the future.

The hospice needs to raise £3m a year to provide free day, in-patient and community care for people living with life-limiting illnesses and their families in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire.

Chief executive Jane Bradshaw said: “Charities were facing extremely challenging times anyway and COVID-19 has hit us all very hard. We are exploring every avenue available to adapt to these new circumstances and sustain for the future an institution that has been serving the community for the past 35 years.”

The pandemic saw the cancellation of nearly all the hospice's fundraising events including the Great North Run and London Marathon, where people often choose to support St Teresa's

Finances were also severely hit by the closure for 14 weeks of St Teresa’s chain of charity shops, which have only just reopened their doors as part of a phased restart of retail operations.

During this period, thanks to management of resources, the hospice has managed to maintain its inpatient unit, vital community services, including home and rapid response care and some day and counselling services.

Mrs Bradshaw said: “This pandemic has forced us all to rethink and re-evaluate our lives but we are adamant that patients will not be let down.

“Where, in the past, some people have been reluctant to use new technology we are now finding that many are happy to embrace it. In fact, on many occasions, people are more engaged having individual and group sessions online than when they had to visit the hospice in person.

“We are all having to adapt to the new world and we have a history of being pioneering in how we offer our care services. We remain in the business of extending our reach, to help as many people as possible, while ensuring our services are safe and as efficient as possible."