LEUCHIE House respite centre has closed its doors and suspended all breaks until at least July 6 – but its staff will be helping the NHS during the coronavirus outbreak.

Anyone with a holiday booked between July 6 and September 28 will remain in contact with the bookings team, who will confirm in June if it is likely to go ahead.

In a letter to the charity’s colleagues and supporters, Leuchie’s chief executive Mark Bevan said it was “desperately sad to say goodbye to our last guest”.

He praised his “highly skilled, dedicated and loyal team and support base” and the difference they make to Leuchie’s guests, as well as his donors and guests.

He said: “I will never forget the tears in a first-time guest’s eyes last summer when she thanked me because, in her words: ‘Leuchie has given me back my hope. It’s worth waking up tomorrow.’

“I am determined that when the current crisis is over Leuchie will still be here, to deliver the service that people in Scotland with neurological conditions and their carers really need.

“We have some tough times ahead, as do many others, but we know that for our guests and their carers times may be even tougher.

“The families we support can feel isolated at the best of times, so this increased need to remain isolated for a longer period may have a significant effect on their overall wellbeing. We will continue to support our guests in any way we can, including delivering individual and group support online and by phone.”

Mark added that Leuchie was diverting all of its resources and using its colleagues to support the NHS during the virus outbreak, something he says is a “new phase in Leuchie’s journey”.

Since Monday, Leuchie has been providing a service, potentially for up to six months, that “will enable the NHS to free up vital beds for people with higher medical care needs than their current occupants”, operating constant 24/7 nursing and care for these individuals.

Mark described this move as “the best use of the charity’s capabilities” in what he calls “these extraordinary times”.

Leuchie will receive financial support from the NHS for this service but Mark says it will “not cover the income that would have been generated through our respite provision, and the financial impact on our organisation will still be significant”.

Despite this, however, all external fundraising activities and events at Leuchie, near North Berwick, will be postponed or cancelled until the end of June.

Mark added: “We are determined to retain all of our colleagues, whose skills will be so urgently needed by guests when we return to our normal purpose. We understand this is a challenging time for everyone, but if you’re able to do so at this time, we urge you to consider making a donation to ensure our essential service will still be here for those who need it most.”