Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

Closure of hospice sparks protest

Caterham hospice
Staff and patients have been given four months' notice of closure

Hundreds of people are expected to attend a protest against the planned closure of a hospice in Surrey.

The Marie Curie Cancer Care Hospice in Harestone Drive, Caterham, which helps patients across East Surrey, is likely to close with the loss of 65 jobs.

The charity said it was giving 500,000 to Surrey Primary Care Trust (PCT) to transfer services to other providers.

MP for East Surrey, Peter Ainsworth, has pledged to attend a protest with councillors, clergy and patients.

Campaigner Richard Holloway, whose father was cared for by the hospice when he was dying from kidney cancer, said it was irreplaceable.

We can't do without those services in Caterham
Surrey PCT

"It provides a very, very important community service from Woldingham and Warlingham, to Dormansland and Lingfield and across to Oxted, Reigate and Redhill," he said.

"The service is highly professional and highly specialised. "

He said the local community had raised an "incredible" amount of money for the hospice.

Chief Executive of Marie Curie Cancer Care, Thomas Hughes Hallett, said a consultation with the staff was under way about the possible closure this spring.

"This has been one of the most difficult issues I have ever faced," he said.

"It is not about saving money but about providing the best possible care to as many people as possible.

"We need to change the emphasis of the charity's services in Surrey."

Replacement services

He said that as well as making 500,000 available to Surrey PCT, the charity would invest another 500,000 in community nursing across the whole county next year.

Surrey PCT said the cash would not meet the full cost of replacement services.

But it was working with two neighbouring hospices to see if they could expand their borders to cover East Surrey.

"The services that Marie Curie supply are essential, specialist palliative care services," said spokeswoman Kay Mackay.

"We can't do without those services in Caterham."

The protest is to be held at the hospice site at 1100 GMT.

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