Concerns over St Raphael Hospice’s future as nuns decide to sell St Anthony's Hospital in North Cheam
Sister Claire Joseph and actress June Whitefied with former Wimbledon and Sutton editors Paul Cahalan and Matthew Knowles, at the launch of the Give Your Quid appeal
A group of nuns who have run a hospital for more than a hundred years are putting it up for sale, sparking concerns about the future of a hospice on the site.
The Daughters of the Cross, the charity which owns St Anthony’s private hospital and St Raphael's Hospice in North Cheam, have spent a year trying to find alternative futures for both organisations due to the nuns increasing age and dwindling numbers.
They announced to staff on Monday, February 4, that their first priority was to offer hospital for sale while they establish an independent future for the hospice. About 500 staff work across the two organisations.
Some of the services at the hospital, which the nuns have run since 1904, help support St Raphael’s including IT, infection control, consultant microbiologist cover and the use of hospital facilities such as x-rays and blood transfusions. The services value £1m.
Cheam councillor, Mary Burstow, raised concerns over shared services at the two organisations, and said: "I think at the moment we are concerned - we recognise St Raphael’s provides a vital service to people locally and its strong support from the local community.
"Whenever you have a new employer there’s always going to be concerns about people’s jobs."
Sister Veronica Hagen, the chair of trustees, said St Raphael’s will continue as it is while plans are made for its independent future.
They expect it will be necessary to separate some functions between the organisations and to contract the new owners of St Anthony's for some services at St Raphael's.
She assured hospital staff that their contracts will be transferred to any new owner under employment law, ensuring they have the same terms and conditions, and they vet very closely all potential new owners for St Anthony's.
She said: "We realise that this decision will come as a disappointment to many of the friends and supporters of St Anthony’s as well as to staff.
"It is an immensely sad moment for the Sisters as well - it is difficult for us to contemplate and accept a future where we have no role in the management of St Anthony’s - particularly after 100 years in Cheam.
"However, we have reached the conclusion that this is the only feasible option and we hope you will understand that we feel it would be irresponsible not to take the decision we believe to be the right one, or to delay facing the inevitable changes that must come, regardless of the path we choose."
In the coming weeks the trustees will be briefing their advisers, Ernst and Young, who will be working with the hospital's management to prepare for the future.
The Sutton Guardian and the Wimbledon Guardian's Give Your Quid Campaign is asking readers to support St Raphael’s Hospice, which provides end of life care and support in the community for people in Merton and Sutton.
To make a donation visit justgiving.com/giveyourquidappeal.