Nuns running St Anthony’s Hospital and St Raphael’s Hospice are stepping down after more than 100 years in charge.

The Daughters of the Cross announced yesterday they were in the process of finding alternative futures for both the hospice and the private hospital in North Cheam.

The sisters, who have an average age of 79, are seeking organisations to take over the ownership and management of both establishments, because of their increasing age and dwindling numbers.

They said their top priority now is to find the best possible future for the hospital, they have run since 1904, and the hospice since 1987.

They have commissioned a team from Ernst and Young to visit the site and consider what actions need to be taken in order to prepare for their future.

Sister Veronica Hagen, the chair of the trustees said their first step will be to establish a future for St Anthony’s.

She said: “As trustees we have to keep all options open.

“Our objective is to ensure the survival of both establishments.

“We want to assure everyone associated with St Anthony’s and St Raphael’s that we will consider all appropriate options and are confident we will find good outcomes for the patients, staff and local community.”

She emphasized they were not planning for any job losses.

It is intended that the convent and the sisters who live on site will remain there and continue to give pastoral support.

Hospital director and hospice manager, Brian Clarke said: “I should like to emphasize that St Anthony’s will remain a hospital and St Raphael’s will remain a hospice, whoever the future owners may be.

“Both organisations enjoy an enviable reputation, which is very largely due to their excellent staff and there is no reason why the working environment should be adversely affected by any initial uncertainty or by the simple fact of alternative ownership.

“It would be folly for any new owner to interfere with the culture and spirit of St Anthony’s and St Raphael’s, as it is this ethos which has so contributed to the success of both organisations.”

Several of the sisters other charity works have been successfully transferred and continue to survive, including St Michael’s Hospital and St Julia’s hospice in Cornwall.