Two Tyneside hospices are among the beneficiaries of a £46,000 donation from the North East’s biggest building society to the region’s end of life care community.

The Marie Curie Hospice in Elswick and St Oswald’s Hospice in Gosforth have each received £5,000 from the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which offers grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

A total of ten hospices across the North East, North Yorkshire and Cumbria have received grants of between £3,000 and £5,000 to help them manage the financial pressures brought on by the pandemic and continue to provide the services they deliver to thousands of people around the region every year.

The donation is part of a £1.5m community commitment that is being provided by Newcastle Building Society this year to help the region manage and recover from the impact of Covid-19.

Gosforth-based St Oswald’s Hospice provides specialist care for adults and children from across the region with life-limiting conditions and aims to make the most of time and improve quality of life for them and their families.

During the pandemic, it has continued to run both its inpatient ward and its children’s service, and has adapted how it works to provide a range of other services either remotely or digitally, as well as offering creative new ideas.

Arts and crafts packs have been delivered to service users’ homes, videocalls via Facebook and Zoom have been set up to help everyone keep in touch, new well-being resources have been made available online and baby chicks were even brought into the hospice for young patients to look at and hold.

Angela Egdell, director of care services at St Oswald’s Hospice, says: “For many of our service users, their weekly visits are the only time they are able to get out of the house, meaning the social aspects of our work can often be just as important as the therapies and support we provide.

“Each time we’re in touch with a patient, we don’t know what issues they might be facing on that particular day, but we try to give as much relevant support as we can each time and we know how much they value the contact we’ve been able to maintain.

“All the new and additional services that we’ve developed weren’t budgeted for at the start of the year, but the cost of delivering them still needs to be covered.

“The way that individuals and businesses like Newcastle Building Society have stepped up to support us over the last few months has been amazing, and knowing that people care has really helped to keep the team going through some difficult times.”

Marie Curie’s Newcastle hospice provides individual care programmes tailored to the specific health needs, lifestyle and circumstances of each of its patients and their families.

It supported 282 inpatients and their loved ones last year, as well as many others living with a terminal illness through its outpatient and community-based nursing services.

It is continuing to offer limited Covid-safe one-to-one sessions within its premises in areas including physiotherapy and art therapy, and is also delivering a range of remote virtual one-to-one and group therapies via telephone and videoconferencing.

The Hospice has also expanded its bereavement support service to specifically help those coping with the impact of Covid-19 who are grieving in isolation and unable to visit friends and family.

Rebecca Crowther, philanthropy executive at The Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle, says: “The pandemic has forced us to adapt and expand services at the hospice to ensure we can continue to support people and their loved ones in the community who are impacted by terminal illness.

“We’ve started to offer more face-to-face activity to our outpatients, but are also maintaining the virtual consultation service that we launched in the summer, which is for people in the community with a terminal illness and their carers who want to dial in for individual support as well as take part in group sessions.

“The combined and continued impact of social distancing measures and government restrictions mean that we still face a very challenging time ahead, but we are committed to ensuring we do whatever we can to continue to be there for the people who need us most.

“We rely on the generosity of individuals, Trusts and Foundations and corporate support to help us to continue be there for people living with a terminal illness and their loved ones in the North East. The crucial funding provided by Newcastle Building Society will help us to continue to deliver our core hospice and nursing services in the North East.”

Stuart Miller, customer director at Newcastle Building Society, says: “The region’s hospices work incredibly hard to help people and families facing the most challenging of situations, and the pandemic has added a whole new dimension to the difficulty of delivering their services.

“The positive impact that they have continued to make in their communities is inspirational, so we’re focusing funding support on these organisations knowing they are making a real difference to people’s lives.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has also contributed over £2.1m in grants and partnerships with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, in March the Society also made a £100,000 contribution to the Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Recovery and Response Fund.