TEN members of staff, including fundraisers, have been made redundant from a charity for people with life-limiting illnesses.

Bosses at Willow Burn Hospice have said there is still a long way to go before it is in a sustainable financial position.

The hospice, based at Maiden Law, near Lanchester, which cared for 140 in-patients last year, costs around £1.5m a year to run.

As well as the in-patient unit, the health and wellbeing centre saw 1,200 people attend appointments last year the family support and bereavement service has helped around 290 people.

Board chairman Paul Jackson said: “We’ve recently had to make the very sad and difficult decision to make some of our people redundant.

“We appreciate that it can be hard to understand why we’ve done that, so we want to make sure everyone understands the position we are in.

“I know a few words can’t possibly make up for the trauma of losing your job, and it was a very uncomfortable decision to have to make about our colleagues, because we are a close-knit team.”

Mr Jackson said the last three years have been highly successful for the hospice, which pulled back from a deficit of £350,000 to a surplus of £33,000 last year.

The charity received a further boost when philanthropist Helen McArdle donated £1.5m for a new six-bed in-patient building, which is currently under construction.

Mr Jackson said: “We get a third of our funding from the NHS, which leaves us with £1m to find from fundraising each year.

“Our fundraising team has worked tremendously hard organising events, but it has actually been increasingly difficult for them even to raise enough money to pay for their own salaries.”

The hospice believes the generous donation from Helen McArdle may have confused many kind-hearted donors.

Mr Jackson said: “We feel some people may be thinking, ‘well, they’ve got plenty of money now’.

“But that money is capital investment and must be used for the new building. We can’t divert any of it towards paying nurses’ salaries.

“It means we need to go on fundraising as hard as ever and relying on the amazing generosity of people in the area, who support us so enthusiastically and whole-heartedly.

“It’s so important that Willow Burn Hospice is able to maintain and grow its service for the people of Derwentside.

“We hope for everyone’s understanding and continued support for the work the hospice does.”