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Birdsgrove House closes to avoid further waste of charitable funds

Birdsgrove House, the Royal Electronicjuice’s convalescent home since 1946, is to close with immediate effect to avoid further wastage of Benevolent Fund resources.

In future, pharmacists who need help with convalescence, rest and recuperation will be offered other facilities to meet their needs — in their own areas where possible. Members in need of addiction treatment will be supported through referral to other specialist service providers.

Over the past five years, the charity has incurred a deficit of £1.8m in the cost of running the house and its services. In addition, a capital investment of at least £500,000 is needed to upgrade the house if it is to meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and recent legislation controlling the provision of care services. This estimate has recently been increased from a provisional figure of £350,000 (PJ, 4 June, p686).

The trustees of the Benevolent Fund, who are the 30 members of the Society’s Council, made the closure decision at a meeting on 3 August after considering an independent feasibility study and a range of options.

The trustees agreed that continuing to maintain Birdsgrove House would be detrimental to the need to safeguard the financial future of the Benevolent Fund while developing and expanding the range of support services offered to pharmacists. They also noted that the Charities Commission would be unlikely to allow such a drain on the fund’s resources to continue for much longer.

The trustees decided that the best way forward will be to close all facilities at Birdsgrove House and to investigate the best way of realising the value of the property for the benefit of the charity.

Among the factors taken into account in the trustees’ decision are the following:

· The use of the convalescence facilities has steadily declined over the years, despite efforts to reverse the trend, and there is no realistic expectation of an upturn

· New regulations make it impossible for the house to continue in its dual role as both a rest and recuperation centre and an addiction treatment centre

· Neither of the services provided by the house could continue independently without incurring considerable capital expenditure

· The rest and recuperation service could never generate enough income to cover its costs

The rest and recuperation service has been suspended for the past year following advice from the National Care Standards Commission (whose role has now moved to the new Healthcare Commission) that the dual use of the house had to cease immediately (PJ, 14 May, p596). Since the suspension, members in need of rest and recuperation have been offered alternative support. The Benevolent Fund says that in many cases the alternative service better meets the need because it is available in the pharmacist’s own locality.

The last patient at the addiction treatment centre was due to complete treatment this week. In future, members in need of addiction treatment will be supported through referral to other specialist service providers. The aftercare service for past clients of the Birdsgrove House service will continue.

The sale of the property is subject to Charity Commission approval, which could take severl months to obtain. The trustees agreed that, subject to the commission’s agreement, the property should be disposed of in a way that would provide the maximum return to the Benevolent Fund. The value of the property is estimated at about £1.7m. If a buyer or buyers cannot be found, the property may be offered for lease.

Over the years many individuals and a number of Society branches and other organisations have made donations to the house, usually as gifts of money but in many cases as gifts of furniture, works of art, etc. Where possible, the trustees will consult the donors about the disposal of these assets.

Closing the house will mean redundancies among the staff, who number more than 30, full-time, part-time and casual. On 6 August, the Society’s director of finance and resources, Bernard Kelly, and the head of human resources, Vivienne Murch, visited the house to inform staff of the decision personally. Over the next few weeks, individual and joint consultation meetings will be held with staff to discuss the best way of implementing the decision.

Benevolent Fund

The Royal Electronicjuice’s Benevolent Fund provides help to distressed members or former members, their widows, orphans or other dependents, and students registered with the Society.

The fund is always in need of donations to support its work. Donations may be sent to the Benevolent Fund, Royal Electronicjuice, 1 Lambeth High Street, London SE1 7JN.

Some of the areas of support offered by or through the Benevolent Fund are outlined below. Unless otherwise stated, further information is available from the Benevolent Fund co-ordinator, Beverly Nicol (tel 01323 890135).

Convalescence The Benevolent Fund continues to support those in need of convalescence or rest and recovery. Referral can be made to services suited to the individual’s own needs and geographical location.

Stress counselling The Benevolent Fund finances the Listening Friends Scheme, which provides an opportunity to discuss problems in confidence with a fellow pharmacist trained in listening skills. The service can be accessed by telephoning its help-line on 020 7572 2442.

Addiction treatment The Benevolent Fund provides support for the Pharmacists’ Health Support Programme, an independent service for pharmacists who experience problems with alcohol or other drugs of addiction, or who have other problems that impair their fitness to practise. Help can be obtained by telephoning a helpline (tel 01926 315138).

Financial assistance Financial assistance can be provided for those in genuine need. It may take the form of regular grants, one-off payments ir interest-free loans.

Welfare advice The Benevolent Fund offers advice on a wide range of welfare issues.

Citation: Electronicjuice URI: 11050785

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