TWO politicians set to go head to head in South Somerset have both thrown their weight behind a campaign to keep a beloved St Margaret’s Hospice facility open.

MP Marcus Fysh and Lib Dem candidate Mick Clark have both signed petitions to try and keep the hospice’s Yeovil facility running.

Last week the charity revealed plans to shut the inpatient facility in Yeovil and move the equipment to the Taunton site.

Mr Clark said: “It’s unlikely that I need convince many of how valuable a service St Margaret’s Hospice provides to those who are in need of comfort, care, and compassion as they near the end of life’s journey.

“As a long time supporter of our local hospice, I am acutely aware of the cost of providing this service and the ongoing struggle to maintain levels of funding, staff, and volunteers.

“Sadly, hospice care has not received the attention or support it should.

“Like many others in England, St. Margaret’s Hospice currently falls outside of the focus of the NHS which has become almost entirely reliant on the charity sector to provide hospice care.

"The NHS only funds around 33 per cent of the cost, the remaining burden falls on income from charitable donations, staff working at below comparative wages, and the many volunteers who offer their time and expertise free of charge.

“The current funding gap has not been helped by Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, who have failed to provide an uplift in funding (promised to be in place by April 2019). Somerset Partnership NHS Trust has also removed £150,000 a year in Community Healthcare Funding.”

However, Mr Fysh said the problem came down to more than just funds available.

He added: “Like so many of us I have supported the Hospice over the years buying cards and going to the summer fete and since becoming an MP I have tried to help publicise their work. It is a much loved place.

“I have spoken to the CEO and it seems that the challenge is not just funding but the availability of staff.

“It is an expensive care model and one of the challenges charities always face is certainty of funding but the staffing requirements of residential care added to the fact that the preference for care at home is increasing is the main driver for this decision.”

Two petitions have been launched in a bid to save the facility, with more than 15,000 combined signatures.

The first petition can be found by clicking here.

The second is being hosted by the Liberal Democrats, and can be found here.

Mr Clark said: “I would encourage everyone to sign this and the petition.

"The proposed closure of St. Margaret’s Hospice in-patient services would be a blow to our local community.

“The staff at the hospice provide an indispensable service to local patients in their hour of greatest need.

“This closure would mean that families with relatives receiving palliative care would have to go as far as Taunton in what can be a very stressful time for a family.”

Mr Fysh added: “I have heard good reports about the out-patient care that St Margaret’s offers but if there is a way to keep the in-patient service in Yeovil then I would very much like to see that happen.

“There is a real risk to hospice provision in Somerset generally if this proposed action by St Margaret’s causes its charitable donations from the Yeovil area, which account for 40 per cent of the charity’s revenue, to drop.”