Hospices in the red after NHS funding cuts

Almost a third of charitable hospices are currently in deficit after a fall in NHS funding, according to new figures released by Help the Hospices.

The charity’s analysis of the accounts of 186 of the UK’s 194 charitable hospices for the period between 2004 and 2006 shows that the proportion of English adult hospices’ expenditure met by the NHS has dropped from 34 per cent in 2004 to 32 per cent in 2006, leaving 28 per cent in deficit.

David Praill, chief executive of Help the Hospices, called on the Government to deliver on its manifesto commitment to double the amount given for palliative care as a matter of urgency.

“We are not asking for 100 per cent funding, but we do need the Government to cover the cost of services that the NHS would otherwise have to provide,” he said. “The donations we get from charity fundraising activities in local communities are already badly needed and cannot be stretched to cover core NHS responsibilities indefinitely as well.”

The figures also show that of the £1.2m per day spent on hospice care, £360,000 comes from Government sources. The amount of Government funding received by individual hospices varies from nothing to 62 per cent. On average, however, each hospice needs to raise £4,500 per day.

The new figures reinforce research by the National Council for Palliative Care in 2006, which showed that in the 2006-07 financial year, 60 per cent of charitable hospices faced real-terms cuts in NHS funding.

Praill said many hospices were struggling because PCTs won’t pay for services within a reasonable time period, or provide the long-term contracts that the hospices need to help them plan ahead. He said he would be calling on the Government to address these issues, as well as implement a consistent and fair funding system for hospices, in its end of life care strategy, announced earlier this year

“The longer the present system is allowed to continue, the more hospices will come under threat,” said Praill. “The situation will only worsen with an ageing population and more and more of us living longer with terminal illness. This issue has to be addressed now.”

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