Hospice funding levels 'patchy'

Children's hospices are suffering after seeing their statutory funding frozen or slashed this year, while adult hospices are also complaining of a lack of fair and sustainable funding, two charities have said.

Hospice UK and Together for Short Lives, which provides support to children with life-threatening or limiting conditions, warned that if hospices are forced to reduce the level of care they provide it will also have a knock-on effect on already overstretched NHS services.

They found nearly three in five (58%) children's hospices have seen their funding either frozen or cut this year, while almost three quarters (74%) of the hospices in England overall that were surveyed said they expected to see this happen soon.

Hospice UK said demand for hospices is likely to rise due to the country's increasingly ageing population, meaning that freezing or cutting funding is "both short-sighted and potentially damaging".

It said that investment in hospices is actually very cost-effective in terms of reducing spend on hospital care in the last year of life, supporting more deaths at home and in care homes and at the same time, improving patient experience and choice.

On average adult hospices receive 32% of their funding from the Government, but this varies widely across the country and is "patchy and inconsistent", the charity said.

The rest must come from fundraising, with hospices collectively needing to raise £1.9 million a day - amounting to more than £9,000 per hospice each day.

Children's hospices receive funding from local authorities and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) along with an annual grant from central government.

Together for Short Lives said they found the vast majority could be forced to reduce their services if this grant was not available.

The two charities warned that as a result of the "dwindling" statutory funding levels a number of hospices are subsidising the shortfall through their reserves, freezing staff recruitment or putting service development on hold.