LOSSES of a third of a million pounds on a funeral venture had no bearing on the decision by St Margaret's Hospice to potentially cut staff and close an in-patient unit, the charity's boss stressed this week.

Bosses were meeting the public yesterday (Wednesday) to explain the reasons behind a raft of measures being considered to battle "an increasingly unsustainable financial position".

Following last week's announcement of the potential closure of the in-patient facility in Yeovil and a greater emphasis on community work, it emerged that Hospice Funerals LLP was £320,862 in the red in its first ten months of operation.

Hospice Funerals was set up by St Margaret's to run a funeral service based in Bridge Street, Taunton, and to offer franchises to other hospices.

St Margaret's chief executive Ann Lee said the funeral service was started in January last year as an extension of the hospice's care and to generate income.

She added: "Hospice Funerals LLP was established to develop and market a funeral service model to other hospices across the UK.

"In common with most new businesses, it was not expected to make a profit in its first year.

"We have been fully transparent in accounting for this new business, and the accounts filed for the period to the end of October 2018 reflect the costs of establishing the limited liability partnership and setting up the franchise operation.

"As with any new commercial venture, such as opening a new shop, this is an investment made with a view to generating future profits to help fund the care provided by St Margaret’s Hospice Care.

"The proposals currently being discussed are a response to our charity’s long-term financial sustainability challenge, medical staffing challenges and patient choice, and in no way due to our investment in new income generation initiatives.

"Opening a funeral home has benefited our patients and their families by providing a logical extension of the care the hospice delivers, plugging the gap between our care to patients and the bereavement support we provide to families.

"In the longer term, it will further benefit patients as profits are reinvested in funding the care provided by the hospice.

"The investment in launching Hospice Funerals LLP was funded from our reserves. Like other organisations, we use our reserves to fund all our capital investments.

"The accounts filed by Hospice Funerals LLP do not reflect the trading performance of St Margaret’s Funerals.

"Our Taunton funeral home, which opened in January 2018, is performing in line with expectations, with year-on-year growth and excellent reviews from families who have used the service.

"We plan to continue growing our funeral business to deliver a sustainable income for the hospice in the future."