WORK is to start within months on a £5.5 million redevelopment of St Luke’s Hospice in Sheffield - which bosses say might have to close if the rebuild does not go ahead.
Managers at St Luke’s, which helps 1,500 terminally-ill patients a year, hope to begin the project in June.
In an exclusive interview with The Star, St Luke’s chief executive Peter Hartland said the on-site redevelopment is vital for the survival of the 41-year-old charity.
Its latest Care Quality Commission inspection found care to be of a very high standard - but found facilities, built in 1971, to be ‘tired’, ‘aged’ and failing to meet ‘current best practice guidance’.
Mr Hartland is worried that, if renovation does not take place soon, a future inspection might find the building on Little Common Lane, Whirlow, not fit for purpose.
He said: “The Commission said the quality of care is exemplary - but the facilities are not.
“There is the potential we would not be able to continue to run a service here if we do not update.
“We can’t wait to make a start - if we wait we might find we have another inspection and have to stop providing services from this facility.” The rebuild - which has planning permission, and comes after long-running, controversial plans to move across town were abandoned - will convert the ageing 20-bed hospice into a modern set of single en-suite bedrooms.
The inpatient unit will change from four large wards into 14 single rooms and two triple-occupancy rooms.
Along with providing greater privacy, the new layout will help staff control the spread of infections such as norovirus, which closed the hospice to new admissions for three weeks last year.
The total number of beds will be unchanged, but the overall floor space will increase by 730m square when the current administration block is knocked down.
Mr Hartland said he could not yet reveal where funding for the rebuild will come from, but is ‘very confident’ the money is available.
The project is the third incarnation of long-running proposals to update the hospice facilities. The charity found itself mired in controversy in 2007, when it announced plans to move to Graves Park. Opponents objected furiously to development on parkland which had been left in trust to the people of Sheffield by benefactor JG Graves.
St Luke’s drew up alternative proposals, for the old Bluestones School site at Norfolk Park, but the economic climate put paid to the plans.
“It has become very clear moving is just not possible,” said Mr Hartland.
“We do not have huge reserves of cash and the money is not available in the NHS. Building a new hospice is just not a possibility.
“This plan gives us security - we know we can run this hospice through our current funding, with the support of the people of this city.”
He added: “People have built up an emotional attachment with this place. We can keep those memories here, while giving this place the facilities it needs.”