THE decision to close an in-patient unit at St Margaret's Hospice and increase community services was taken in the best interests of the charity and the community it serves, the Charity Commission has ruled.

The commission launched an investigation after St Margaret's trustees made a "serious incident report" as they knew their plans to close the Yeovil facility were "sensitive".

Staff, volunteers and the public were "understandably very concerned about the proposal" and even started a social media campaign to block the closure.

After looking into the issue, a report from the Charity Commission published today (Wednesday) says: "Overall, the commission found that the trustees demonstrated a desire to act in the best interests of their charity and the community it serves and that the charity's mission and purpose guided their decision-making, as we would expect.

"Following specific complaints, the commission also examined the trustees' decisions about the charity's commercial ventures,, and established that these had no direct impact on the need to remodel services.

"Whilst we are mindful of the consequences for people, the commission has concluded that the decision to remodel the services was properly made and within the range of decisions that a reasonable trustee body could make."

Jonathan Langdon, chairman of St Margaret’s Hospice Care, welcomed the commission's conclusion that the decision to remodel services was properly made.

He added: "Following a thorough review, the commission has found that our board of trustees acted appropriately and followed proper procedures throughout the lengthy consultation and decision-making process which led to the closure of our Yeovil In-patient Unit last year.

"It has also confirmed that the need to remodel our services was not linked to our investment in new commercial ventures.

"We hope these findings will reassure people that this difficult decision was taken after careful consideration, and in the best interests of the long-term future of our charity and the community we serve."

Mr Langdon added: "Our priority remains ensuring a sustainable future for hospice care in Somerset. We will continue to use our resources to reach as many people as possible who need our specialist care and support, so they do not have to face a life-limiting illness alone.

"Now this case has concluded, we are focused on rolling out a model of hospice care that is fit for the future.

"This includes investing in expanding our community team in the Yeovil area and our in-patient unit in Taunton, so that it can accommodate more patients from across Somerset who need this intensive palliative care.

"We are currently recruiting to fill key roles – something we were not able to do until we knew the outcome of the consultation process and had fully explored opportunities for redeployment with all affected staff.

"As St Margaret’s celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, we are working hard to ensure we can meet the rising demand for our care in the years ahead. More information about our vision can be found on our website."