Michael Howard spoke movingly about the care given by Nightingale to his late mother Hilda in an address to its biennial dinner, which raised over £1 million.
Before over 500 Nightingale supporters at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday, the former Tory leader praised the south London home as “a shining beacon in the area of care for the elderly”.
He went on: “Don’t we all yearn to spend the last weeks, months and years of life’s journey in peace and comfort? This is what Nightingale was able to give my mother. Nothing was too much for the staff. The experience was quite extraordinary and very humbling to see. Of all the charities that are candidates for your generosity Nightingale is one of the most deserving. It is a place that takes in the old, the sick and the most vulnerable members of our community and cares for them in their last years.”
Nightingale chairman Harvey Rosenblatt discussed the challenges facing the charity at a time of economic difficulty. The elderly were living longer and there was a need for advanced nursing and dementia care, he said.
“We constantly endeavour to evaluate demand and to predict the age and health profiles of future residents. The number of people over 85 in the UK is expected to double in the next 20 years and treble in the next 30. Consequently it is becoming increasingly clear that future demand for dementia care will inevitably rise as the average lifespan lengthens. We are preparing for this eventuality.”
A £6.5 million dementia wing is at the heart of Nightingale’s vision and construction work will start in January.
“Nightingale receives no financial support from central government and what we get from local government is woefully inadequate and falls way below our cost,” he added.
“Whatever the colour of the next government front bench, common sense dictates that the parlous state of Britain’s public finances will preclude any significant change in relation to Nightingale’s funding requirements.”
The home had achieved annual savings of £1 million through means such as reviewing staff deployment and pay structure.
Proceeds from the dinner will go towards running costs and building and refurbishment.