First Hospice funeral service launched in England and Wales

Hospices in England and Wales are to offer funeral services direct to families for the first time as part of their end of life care support.

St. Margaret’s Hospice in Somerset has joined forces with funeral service provider Low Cost Funeral Ltd (part of the Memoria Group) to establish Hospice Funerals LLP in one of the biggest developments in the funeral market.

The company will provide quality, caring, transparent and personal funerals at affordable prices for everyone. There will be a range of funeral services through hospices across the country, from unattended direct cremation to a personalised funeral.   It will also offer pre-arranged guaranteed fixed cost funeral plans. Prices for funerals start at £1,195 which is some 66% (£2,500) lower in cost than an average traditional funeral. The service will be available to everyone in the community, irrespective of whether they have been a hospice patient or not.

The business is being run as a franchise and hospices will offer the services through funeral shops on the High Street.  The first funeral home will be opened by St. Margaret’s in Taunton in January 2018.

Entering the funeral market was the brainchild of Ann Lee, Chief Executive of St. Margaret’s Hospice who was introduced to Howard Hodgson CEO of Low Cost Funeral Ltd (part of the Memoria Group). Hodgson came up with the idea of a joint venture and since then the two parties have been working together to develop this new business model.

Memoria communicated with various government departments following the Parliamentary Select Committee Report into the cost of funerals in 2016 and why the cost of dying had increased for several years at a higher rate than the cost of living.  At that time the company pledged to be at the vanguard of a drive towards ensuring that the cost of funerals were more transparent and the introduction of more affordable fixed price packages.

Ann Lee, said: “We wanted to provide people, who need end of life care either in their hospice or at home, a modern, transparent, personal and affordable funeral service.

“This is a natural extension of the care we provide our patients, so their final time, be it months, weeks or years, is free from worry about the practicalities of a funeral.  It also offers patients and their families more choice, whether under our care or not.

“The initiative emerged from a major public consultation carried out by St. Margaret’s looking at innovative new models of support to ensure sustainability of its services in the face of a growing elderly population and a reduction in government funding – a challenge faced by the hospice movement and other care organisations across the country.  We also sought the views of the general public to our plans and there was a resounding positive response.”

The profits generated from funeral services operated by the hospices will be re-invested into their local communities to enhance the care and support they provide to people with life limiting illnesses and widen provision in areas such as bereavement services.

Howard Hodgson, Low Cost Funeral Director and Joint Managing Partner of Hospice Funerals, who has amassed 50 years in the funeral industry and built the UK’s largest publicly quoted funeral company in the 80s and 90s, added: “Dying and death is but one unavoidable experience for the bereaved. Our service is designed to reduce funeral poverty and to cater for all tastes, budgets, religions and preferences.”

The development of the venture has been welcomed by Professor Max Watson, Consultant in Palliative Medicine at the University of Ulster.

He commented: “Celebrating a life in 2017 differs greatly from when the hospice movement began. We are a very different society. Hospices have been on a journey themselves; ensuring patients have more information and therefore more opportunity to choose the care that suits them at this very important part of their lives.

“With end of life care and bereavement care being delivered by hospices across the country daily, and many funeral services being taken by Hospice Chaplains, it seems only appropriate that hospices should consider offering uninterrupted care and support from holistic care through to bereavement. By doing so, families are saved from the anxiety of an additional transition to another service provider.

“Of course, many families will have close relationships already with their own undertakers, but for those who do not, hospice based funeral service support is offering an opportunity for families to continue to receive uninterrupted care and support including the funeral from a team and an organisation that they have come to know and trust.”

As part of the franchise scheme the hospice provider will be entitled to operate exclusively within a defined area and can acquire more than one area.

Hospice Funerals will provide a list of suppliers, products and prices that the Hospice providers will need to purchase to create their funeral service, meaning Hospice Funerals makes no margin on the set up.

Hospice Funerals will select, train and manage the Hospice providers’ funeral staff, and provide a bespoke funeral arrangement software system.  Besides funeral income, the Hospice provider will receive pre-arrangement plan commission and all income related to memorialisation, boosting funds needed for core and added value services.

For further press information please contact:

Chris Lawrance/Karen White, JBP PR, 0117 9073400

Hollie Cashmore, St. Margaret’s Hospice, 01823 365621

Clare Gallie, St. Margaret’s Hospice, 07803 246936

Jamieson Hodgson, Low Cost Funeral / Memoria, 07899 886994

Notes to Editor:

St. Margaret’s Hospice has been at the heart of Somerset’s community for over 37 years, delivering high quality, responsive and compassionate care to patients and their families facing a life-limiting illness. Last year St. Margaret’s cared for 3,200 people, the majority of whom are cared for in their own homes. The charity has more than 1,200 volunteers and one in five of its patients receive care thanks to gifts in wills.

Over the last two years St. Margaret’s Hospice has invested in an extensive Fit for Future review across the communities it serves to help the charity identify and plan a model for the future provision of services provided by the hospice across Somerset. It was undertaken in light of the demands being placed on hospices across the country including an ageing population and government funding cuts. Hospice Funerals LLP is one of the initiatives that has emerged from this review.

Low Cost Funeral Ltd is part of the Memoria Group which was incorporated in 2003 by 3 directors with over 90 years collective experience in the funeral sector. The CEO, Howard Hodgson, has 50 years’ experience on his own account and previously built the UK’s largest publicly quoted funeral company which had 547 branches by the time he sold his interests. He is a fourth generation funeral director whose family have been funeral directors since 1850. Howard was largely recognised as the person who transformed the funeral industry in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s.

Memoria has received more planning consents than any other crematoria operator since the millennium. It currently runs crematoria across the country in County Durham, Denbighshire (North Wales), Essex, Glamorgan, Hertfordshire Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Leicestershire, Suffolk and Yorkshire

Additional sites will open in Flintshire in Wales in 2018 and at Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire in 2019. Further sites are at various states of planning.

In 2017 Memoria had all seven of its then open crematoria nominated for the ‘Best Crematorium’ award (as organised by The Good Funeral Guide) and the winner was South Oxfordshire Crematorium & Memorial Park, a Memoria crematorium.

First Hospice funeral service launched in England and Wales