FOR 20 years, St Richard's Hospice has been a part, not just of Worcester, but the whole of the south of the county.

Now, the news that the city council has approved the charity's plans for a 15-bed palliative care centre means it will play an even greater role in our community.

The new residential centre, in Wildwood Drive, Spetchley, will offer all the services currently in place at the charity's Rose Hill premises, and much more besides.

St Richard's existence and importance touches the lives of more and more people in the Faithful City and beyond every year.

The work of St Richard's - and Acorns, which is also building a care centre in the city - is regularly and rightly praised from every quarter.

Yet St Richard's has been faced with the daunting task of raising the £5.25m needed to build this centre, where it can provide its much-valued palliative care and specialist treatment.

If moves had been made to make the provision of respite care part of the National Health Service's mandate, they have not been made strongly enough.

We've never heard an argument which convinces us that the medical, pastoral and spiritual care of those with life-limiting conditions should be at the mercy of charity fund-raising and corporate goodwill.

However, the good people of Worcestershire will, we are sure, once again dig deep and make generous donations to make this much-needed facility a reality.

Our community will be all the richer for it.