Two Northumberland hospice charities are sharing a £10,000 grant from the North East’s biggest building society which will help them meet the cost of providing their essential services.

Hospice Care North Northumberland and Tynedale Hospice At Home 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.

It 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.

Hospice Care North Northumberland is an independent palliative care charity which supports people living with life-limiting illnesses, their families and their carers across an area from the Scottish border down as far as Rothbury and Widdrington, and serves a population of over 63,000 people.

It operates well-being centres in Alnwick and Berwick, with the work of its expert team backed up by around 300 local volunteers which saves the charity over £300,000 every year in the hours they donate.

All the services offered by Hospice Care North Northumberland, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, are provided free at the point of delivery.

It needs to raise around three quarters of a million pounds every year to cover its running costs and receives just five per cent of this from the NHS, with the rest coming from fundraising, donations, trusts and legacies.

Interim CEO Emily Dobson says: “The Coronavirus pandemic has been a very challenging time for us, but our staff have risen to the challenge, and we have been able to continue throughout, using appropriate PPE, taking our specialist end of life support into people’s homes.

“In fact, due to closer co-operation with our colleagues in NHS Primary Care, we have been called upon to deliver more hours of care than originally planned.

“This generous donation will help to cover the extra costs involved in doing this work and we are hugely grateful to the Newcastle Building Society for their ongoing support.”

Tynedale Hospice At Home provides professional needs-led end of life nursing care in the patient’s home for people living across Tynedale, Ponteland and West Northumberland, as well as pre and post bereavement services for patients and their families and a volunteer-led hospital transport service which is available to anyone with a life-limiting diagnosis across an area of around 800 square miles.

It’s the second time in the last year that Newcastle Building Society has supported Tynedale Hospice At Home, with a £3,000 grant given through its Hexham branch last November helping to cover the running costs of the hospital transport service, which has continued to operate as an essential service during the pandemic.

The services provided by Tynedale Hospice At Home cost nearly £1m to run every year, with the great majority being raised through grants, fundraising activities and donations.

Charlotte Pearson, head of income generation at Tynedale Hospice At Home, says: “We’ve seen the number of referrals to our hospice at home end of life care service double in just the last month, a trend which may continue, and we’ve been recruiting more nurses and hospice support workers to ensure we can provide the support that’s required.

“Our nursing team all now wear full PPE when visiting clients in their homes to help ensure everyone’s safety. Consequently, each visit is naturally taking longer to plan and undertake, as well as being more difficult for our expert team who are not able to offer the physical reassurance that often makes such a difference.

“All these changes mean there are additional costs to cover at a time when our income has taken a severe hit, and while our shops are open and trading once again, many other fundraising activities are still on hold and we have a lot of catching up to do.

The continuing support that Newcastle Building Society is providing is incredible, and in the present situation, we really couldn’t be more grateful.”

Stuart Miller, customer director at Newcastle Building Society, says: “The Society has a strong presence right across Northumberland and we’ve heard from many of our customers about the huge difference that these charities make to the lives of families facing very challenging situations.

“Playing an active role in our communities is a core part of who we are and we’re very proud to be supporting their invaluable work.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has 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.