WILLOWBROOK Hospice has been handed a Government grant of more than £660,000 to help it expand – but bosses there stress donations remain vital to its growing service.

Neil Wright, chief executive of the charity, welcomed the cash boost which is the biggest slice out of £10 million shared between North West hospices.

The money will pave the way for the expansion of the Portico Lane-based hospice from 10 beds to 12 and, according to Mr Wright, improve the quality of its end-of-life care.

However, he said it does not mean the hospice is awash with money, and donations from the St Helens public remain vital to its existence.

Mr Wright said: “The care we offer is going to be even better. We will do that by having more single rooms, which will provide more dignified and private care for people who are terminally ill or in need of specialist care.”

Willowbrook, which has 1,000 referrals a year, has a 95 per cent occupancy rate and consequently a waiting list for patients.

Primarily it takes in terminally ill cancer patients, however, people with life-limiting illnesses such as motor neurone disease and heart disease are also cared for there.

Mr Wright, who said it would help reduce the waiting list, added: “We received the biggest share because St Helens and Knowsley are two areas of the greatest need – poorer areas where some people are not in great health and the chances of dying from cancer are higher than other areas.

“We do not see just people in their 80s, there are people aged 23, in their 30s and 40s who all come here.

“As methods of treatment progress we are also dealing with patients who have more complex needs when it comes to end-of-life care. There is a whole industry about bringing a baby into the world and it is the same with end-of-life care – it is not just about treating the patient.

“It is about taking a holistic approach, helping a family through bereavement with issues such as psychological, social and financial.”

While, the funding will help with developments of the buildings that, he adds, are bricks and mortar and that funding – from sources such as charity events and legacies – to provide the care remains crucial.

Announcing the successful projects, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “This extra funding will help bring hospices up to date.”