Children's hospices face a 'dangerous cocktail' of growing costs and declining NHS funding

Together for Short Lives says the lack of sustainable funding is putting the future of children's hospices at risk

Children's hospices (Photograph: gorodenkoff/Getty Images
Children's hospices (Photograph: gorodenkoff/Getty Images

The NHS needs to make good on its promise to properly fund children’s hospices by more than doubling annual funding to £25m, the children’s hospice charity Together for Short Lives has said.

The charity said in a statement today that NHS England had rowed back on a plan to make £7m more funding available over the next five years to children’s hospices by also making the money available to non-hospice palliative care services in the NHS’s Long Term Plan.

Children’s hospices currently receive £11m a year through the Children’s Hospice Grant. NHS England has said this will rise to £12m.

Together for Short lives said the average amount received by each children’s hospice had fallen by £7,000 on average to £364,076 a year, with 74 per cent expecting a real-terms cut in the money they received in 2018/19.

It said 15 per cent of children’s hospice charities received no money at all from their clinical commissioning groups.

A fifth of children’s hospice charities were also cutting short respite breaks because of the problems with funding, Together for Short Lives said.

Yesterday, the chief executive of the hospice charity Acorns, Toby Porter, wrote in the West Midlands newspaper the Express and Star that it was closing its hospice in Walsall because of funding cuts.

The charity said £1.5m a year in new funding was needed to prevent the closure. In the article, Porter wrote that an outpouring of donations and support locally was not enough to fill the funding gap.

"As hugely welcome as the wonderful offers of support are from across our local community, there is no evidence yet that we can get near that figure from new income from our shops or new donations from supporters," the article said.

"Similarly, Walsall Council and our local NHS commissioners have all been hugely sympathetic but have made it clear that their own budgets are exhausted and they have no new funds to share. These are tough times and there are no easy answers."

Acorns had announced earlier this year that 12 care workers could be made redundant because of uncertainty over Brexit and a fall in charity shop income.

Andy Fletcher, chief executive of Together for Short Lives, said Acorns’ proposal to close the Walsall hospice was "just the tip of the iceberg".

He said: "All children’s palliative care services, delivered in hospitals, children’s hospices and the community, need equitable and sustainable funding.

"However, children’s hospices in England are facing a dangerous cocktail of growing costs and declining, patchy NHS funding, which is putting their long-term future at risk.

"It is simply not sustainable to expect specialist children’s palliative care services provided by children’s hospices to be funded by charity reserves and the generosity of the public."

NHS England did not respond to a request for comment before publication of this story. 

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