Back in November 2017, a bright new star rose in the world of funerals.
St. Margaret’s Hospice in Somerset joined forces in partnership with Howard Hodgson’s Low Cost Funerals to form Hospice Funerals LLP in what they described at the time as ‘one of the biggest developments in the funeral market‘.
According to the same announcement, entering the funeral market was the brainchild of Ann Lee, Chief Executive of St. Margaret’s Hospice.
Encouraged by Mr Hodgson, Ms Lee shared her vision of a franchise operation with attendees at the 2017 Hospice UK conference, and in January 2018 the much heralded first Hospice Funerals branch was opened in Taunton.
Here at the GFG, we had some misgivings about the concept, and we wrote letters to the trustees of all hospices in the UK laying out our concerns – you can read the letter here.
It may be that our warning was heeded, or it may be that trustees of other hospices already shared our concerns about the wisdom of St. Margaret’s Hospice’s vision for the future – either way, in early 2018 Hospice UK issued a statement about their position on the concept, and it appears that there were no takers for the idea of getting on board with the Hospice Funerals scheme.
Notwithstanding, the enthusiasm continued, and in a progress report on March 1st 2019, Ms Lee noted “After a successful first year for our Taunton funeral home, we are recruiting to cope with growing demand and are already working on expansion plans to reach more people in our patch.
St. Margaret’s Hospice Funerals is on track to become an established revenue stream for our charity.”
Let’s look a little more closely.
A browse through Hospice Funerals LLP’s filing history at Companies House shows a flurry of appointments, cessations and terminations of appointments, with Low Cost Funerals terminating their involvement as of 28th March this year.
Hospice Funerals LLP now has a somewhat circular list of officers – Hospice Funerals Trading Ltd, and St. Margaret’s Funerals Ltd.
Both HFTL and SMFL list just one officer – Hospice Funerals LLP. Follow the links and you get back to where you started. No names, no pack drill.
It looks like the partnership between St. Margaret’s and Low Cost Funerals didn’t make it to the sunny uplands of the ‘marriage made in heaven‘, as it was described in a comment when the franchise scheme was launched. Nor does it appear to have been ‘genius‘, as described by a CEO of another hospice.
The micro company accounts of Hospice Funerals LLP can be viewed here. We had to read them twice to make sure we had understood the numbers correctly.
In the period to 31 October 2018, it appears Hospice Funerals LLP spent an eye-watering amount of £329,567 on administrative expenditure!
This figure includes £41,731 on conference costs, £71,191 on legal costs, £36,342 on travel, accommodation and subsistence and £23,848 on marketing.
The net profit for the period is shown as (£320,862). For anyone unfamiliar with accounting, the brackets indicate a minus number. So, a loss.
These accounts for Hospice Funerals LLP were published on 31 July 2019.
On the same day, St. Margaret’s Hospice announced plans to close the in patient hospice ward in Yeovil.
The Yeovil unit was built after an appeals committee was founded to raise £4.5 million in 2001. It originally had 16 beds and was officially opened in 2004, complete with state of the art facilities and equipment. The people of Yeovil and the surrounding areas have reacted with fury, calling the decision ‘disgusting’. A Facebook group called “Save St. Margaret’s Hospice Yeovil’ has attracted over 13,000 members in a week.
Full details of the planned closure can be found here, along with background information explaining why the hospice was unable to offer staff a cost of living pay increase earlier this year.
It gives us no pleasure to bring you this update today.