Sunday, 1 September 2013

Paul Burstow Vs The Nuns

Sutton and Cheam’s Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow has been accused of misrepresenting the situation regarding the Daugters of the Cross who own St Raphaels Hospice and St Anthony’s Hospital about their future.

In a leaked letter written by the Daughters they say that
“We are distressed that, despite explaining this situation to Mr Burstow, he has organised a local campaign to 'save the hospice', despite it not being in any danger. We are even more worried because the future he would like to see for the hospital actually confers greater risk for the future of the hospice.”

Mr Burstow has written to the Charity Commission, asking it to investigate the Daughters of the Cross, how their charity has conducted itself and accused them of a lack of due diligence and of risking financial and reputational damage. He has said in Parliament that
“It cannot be right for a charitable purpose to be subverted by the personal concerns of the trustees about their own long-term involvement in the charity.”
The MP has also asked for representations to be made to Pope Francis claiming that “only an intervention from the Vatican can hope to protect the future of the much loved and cherished St Raphael’s hospice.”

The Daughters of the Cross explained that:
“At the heart of [Mr Burstow’s] campaign, backed by some staff, is a plan to establish a new charity to run the hospital and hospice. We have given this option along with five other options full consideration but have decided to reject it following professional independent advice. To date, we have refrained from fully addressing in public the main reasons behind our decision to avoid undermining the leadership team of SAH and SRH, and also because the plan was, sadly, unworkable. 
Our fundamental reasons for rejecting the new charity were that:
  • The plan committed to borrowing a huge portion of the capital needed from the English Charity run by the Order-depriving it of funds to support our other works supporting vulnerable people. It also committed to paying the money back on an unrealistic timescale.
  • Because SRH would then be dependent on the success of SAH, this plan would put the Hospice at greater risk than a plan to make it a stand-alone charity.
  • Much of their planning was predicated on maintaining the unique ethos of the hospital through careful selection of trustees, even though we know from our own experience and that of other religious orders that you simply cannot guarantee this."
The Daughters of the Cross is a worldwide order of Catholic nuns that have dedicated themselves to serving God and helping the poor, the weak and the suffering since 1833. You can see their website here.

In their letter they have continued:
“Despite Mr Burstow's claims, we continue to support the Hospice as we plan for a future independent of the Daughters of the Cross. We have recently invested £76,000 towards their plans for a new orangery, and we ensure that the Hospice has an effective fundraising department. It is outrageous for Mr. Burstow to constantly imply we are placing the Hospice at risk. We used our land, built the Hospice, extended it, worked locally to develop the Palliative Care and Hospice at Home Services. This was all as a gift to the locality to mark their part in the life of the Hospital, prior to our Regional Health Board Funding being withdrawn, with no warning in the early 70's. We were undertaking very little private work in this era and this withdrawal of funds occurred just as we were building the current Hospital. Why would we want to destroy the Hospice when we worked so hard to create it and have subsidised it out of our Charity funds for the last 25 years? 
The one thing we cannot change significantly is that within our Province the sisters are getting older and fewer and so we are planning responsibly for the future. It has been a long and difficult process for us and, while we appreciate the local community's appreciation of St Anthony's and St Raphael's, and we are honoured that they feel that we have run them well, we have made our decision based not only on our religious principles, but the best interests of the whole Charity, whilst ensuring there is a future for the Hospital.”
Mr Burstow has set up a "Save St Raphael's" website which links directly to a Liberal Democrat petition site. Signing his petition and ticking the ‘Get Updates from us’ come with the little condition that: “Paul Burstow MP, the Liberal Democrats, and their elected representatives may use the information you provide to contact you about issues you may find of interest. Some of the contacts may be automated. You can opt out of these contacts at any time by contacting us.”

Mr Burstow met with the nuns initially but the blog understands he has since declined to meet with them again.

Paul Scully, Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Sutton and Cheam, has said it was important to make sure the hospice is there for generations to come and that we "can’t turn it into a political football." He added:
“I’m not sure complaining to the Charity Commission accusing elderly nuns of misconduct is a sensible way forward instead of working with the trustees and hospital staff to get a solution for hospital staff."
Mr Burstow said the campaign was broad-based reflecting the views of many of the staff and supporters of the hospice and added:
"So far they have failed to convince me and much more importantly the staff and management of the hospice and hospital that their plan will work."
The Daughters of the Cross have reiterated that:
“We are proud that our work at the hospital and the hospice is seen as vital to the community, and we want to reassure you that all our decisions around both works will enable them continue to provide these excellent services into the future.”

8 COMMENTS (Add Yours Now!):

axlrocky said...

sounds reminiscent of the usual lib dem sabre rattling making up causes that have no basis in fact. anyone remember how davey, clegg and burstow saved kingston hospital just before the last election?

i would say i told you so but..........


Yeah... nothing rattles up support of picking on nuns and charities! Seems to me like he is putting the life of the charitable work before the desires of the charity it's self .

guest D said...

Paul Burstow is on a hiding to nothing here.

As I understand the charity's position it wants to sell St Anthony's to a private organisation who will continue to run it as a private hospital (which it is at the moment). The order needs to do that because it's costs are rising, particularly staffing costs as they are having to replace nuns who work for food and lodging with staff who have to be paid minimum wage at least. In addition the order wants to use the funds from the sale to further their worldwide charitable work, remember it is not UK based.

In many respects the hospital is in the same position as The Royal Hospital of St Barthlomew Le Grand (Barts) of the Bethlem Hospital which both had the rug pulled from under them in terms of financing by Henry 8

I can't see the Charity Comissioners finding anything wrong with the orders position.

It's the position of St Raphael was seems to me to be in danger, it appears to piggyback on St Anthony's for its administrative services, it may be that the order will write into the contract of sale that, that will continue. Or it may be that it will also be sold to a private bidder.

I think both of the Paul's are right in shining a light on this issue, but I do wonder at Mr Burstow's tactics.

However, the charity commisioners should investigate whether the monies raised on the sale can be taken out of the country.

guest 123 said...

"You can opt out of these contacts at any time by contacting us.”
Whoever runs that site needs to change it to provide an 'opt in' tick box, NOT to assume an 'opt in' which then requires further contact to 'opt out'. The default should always be 'no contact'.

guest said...

"Mr Burstow, ... has organised a local campaign to 'save the hospice', despite it not being in any danger"
Looks like a bandwagon of his own making which he will regret jumping on.
Will be interesting to see how he gets out of this particular hole, or if he keeps digging.
As to that picture - I wonder how long it took the snapper to get that Patrician look - scary!

guest D said...

I think what you say is probably true. But remember that the Order is a business conducting a business negotation, they do not want a Save St Rapheal's compaign, as it might make their buyer pull out or drop the price. If it is in their interests, religious orders are not above lying or at least dissembling the truth.

I do hope that in a few years time St Raphael's doesn't have to close because the assurances (which contain no details of how administration is to be funded) prove to be false.

Paul Scully said...

Hi guest D. You're right this is a business negotiation. From my discussions, there are 27 or so healthcare organisations that are being considered or have expressed an interest in St Anthony's. The Daughters of the Cross have said that they will go for the one who best suits the ethos of the hospital even if it means rejecting the highest bidder. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, but I don't have any reason to disbelieve this pledge.

Similarly the alternative bid from the management seeks to get the hospital for an initial payment considerably less than market value with a promise of a revenue stream over a few decades, so the lower a price they can get the hospital for, the more secure their future income is. The negotiations go both ways. This is also demonstrated by the estimates of the costs of the hospice that are borne by the hospital which differ considerably depending on who you speak to.

Either way, I'm still convinced that picking on a group of elderly nuns isn't the best way to encourage cordial negotiations.

guest D said...


Thanks for the clarification and as I said, I am suspicious of the other Paul's motives. But then I'm suspicious of every thing that a Politician says.

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