HOSPICES are to extend their continuity of care to include support after death, with the launch of their own funeral services.
A hospice in Somerset has joined forces with a funeral-service provider to set up Hospice Funerals LLP, a franchise funeral service that will be run through shops on high streets.
It claims to be the first hospice-run funeral service in the world.
The first funeral home will be opened by St Margaret’s Hospice, in Taunton, in January, and will offer funerals to those who have been patients of hospices as well as those who have not.
The chief executive of St Margaret’s and joint partner of Hospice Funerals, Ann Lee, said: “We wanted to provide people who need end-of-life care either in their hospice or at home, a modern, transparent, personal, and affordable funeral service.
“This is a natural extension of the care we provide our patients, so their final time, be it months, weeks, or years, is free from worry about the practicalities of a funeral.”
Profits generated from the funeral services will be reinvested into hospices, Ms Lee said.
The idea has been driven by financial challenges facing St Margaret’s, in the face of cuts in government funding and increased demand from a growing elderly population.
The new service will offer low-price and pre-paid funerals — with the lowest, an unattended cremation, costing £1295, which, Ms Lee said, is about £2500 less than the average traditional funeral.
The chief executive of Low Cost Funeral Ltd and joint managing partner of Hospice Funerals, Howard Hodgson, said that the new service would help those who faced funeral poverty due to soaring funeral costs.
The cost of dying in the UK has risen by more than 80 per cent over the past decade.
Professor Max Watson, a palliative-care clinician, who is a Visiting Professor at the University of Ulster, welcomed the development.
He said: “Celebrating a life in 2017 differs greatly from when the hospice movement began. We are a very different society. Hospices have been on a journey themselves; ensuring patients have more information and therefore more opportunity to choose the care that suits them at this very important part of their lives.
“With end-of-life care and bereavement care being delivered by hospices across the country daily, and many funeral services being taken by Hospice chaplains, it seems only appropriate that hospices should consider offering uninterrupted care and support from holistic care through to bereavement. By doing so, families are saved from the anxiety of an additional transition to another service provider.
“Of course, many families will have close relationships already with their own undertakers, but for those who do not, hospice-based funeral-service support is offering an opportunity for families to continue to receive uninterrupted care and support including the funeral from a team and an organisation that they have come to know and trust.”
Other hospices are already considering the franchise offer. The chief executive of North Devon Hospice, in Barnstaple, Stephen Roberts, said that the new service was a “natural extension” to the care already offered by hospices.
“Putting it quite simply, a hospice providing funeral services is a natural extension to the wrap-around care that hospices provide throughout the country to the whole family at end of life. We hold a patient and their family throughout their journey to death and then sustain that support for those loved ones left behind. From a continuity of care it makes complete sense for a hospice to be also integral in a key moment in death in the form of the funeral,” Mr Roberts said.