St Raphael’s Hospice's first CEO has said its future is safe despite widespread fears about its funding.
Serious concerns were raised and a campaign was launched by the Sutton and Cheam MP Paul Burstow when the news was announced a year ago that St Raphael’s Hospice could be left with a £1m funding gap when the nuns who own it sell its sister hospital St Anthony’s.
Absolutely Fabulous star June Whitfield, who lives in Wimbledon, called on the nuns to answer questions about the hospice.
Mr Burstow asked the Government to intervene and the chairman Dr Ron McKeran admitted there was 'considerable uncertainty' and wrote a letter, along with six senior consultants, to the Vatican and senior archbishops in the UK asking them to withdraw their permission to sell St Anthony's to a commercial organisation.
Actress June Whitfield outside the hospice
However, with separation imminent the first CEO of St Raphael’s Hospice Mike Roycroft said the future of the hospice has never really been in jeopardy and now there was an exciting time of opportunity.
Campaigners against the sale said a £1m invisible subsidy from St Anthony's paid for a range of services and functions including infection control, IT, catering and use of hospital medical facilities such as blood transfusions and X-rays.
But Mr Roycroft said this week the hospice would be "absolutely fine".
He said: "The hospital will be sold off fairly shortly - they are going through the last few legal steps. I realise there’s been a long period of uncertainty but in reality the future of the hospice never has been in jeopardy.
"We are hoping that by the end of March we will be ready to be separated whether or not the hospital is sold or not. When the sale takes place, whenever that might be, it will happen seamlessly.
"There are, of course, many challenges ahead but I have been so impressed by the quality and dedication of the staff and volunteers that I have met and what is being achieved."
He said although they were ready to go ahead with the separation there were a few things such as forms still bearing St Anthony’s name which need to change but these were easily manageable.
The hospice will remain under the ownership and management of its parent charity, the Daughters of the Cross, and chairman of the trustees, Sister Veronica Hagen said: "It was with excitement and joy that I was able to introduce Mike Roycroft the first full-time chief executive officer, to the staff of St Raphael’s.
Mr Burstow said: "I welcome the reassurance of St Raphael's new chief executive. However, the relationship with St Anthony's Hospital has been a special one and I look forward to hearing how the hospice plans to create a positive future on its own."
Previously Mr Roycroft, was chief executive for nearly ten years of The Whitey Homes Trust and Warden of Whiteley Village, near Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, which provide support and care to needy elderly people.
Prior to that he was the director of the Army's Primary Health Care Service in UK.