Hospices to get £25 million cash boost to secure future, Boris Johnson tells ITV News

The government has pledged £25 million to help struggling hospices and palliative care services following an ITV News and Hospice UK investigation into funding for end of life care.

In an ITV News exclusive, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the cash injection "to alleviate the everyday pressures" faced by the sector.

Boris Johnson said he hopes there will be more money next year too before adding: "It's absolutely clear the work [hospice workers] do is crucial for our society".

It is hoped the new investment will improve the quality of end of life care for around 200,000 people being cared for in hospices and help keep many of the struggling facilities open.

In May our exclusive survey with Hospice UK found one in three hospices are being forced to cut services, while more than half (55%) either have, or plan to, delay or cancel the roll out future plans to provide end of life care.

The PM added: "It's crucial for the tranquility and the peace of mind for people at the end of their lives and making sure they have the most comfortable, most dignified possible last few days."

"There is so much that they do voluntary so much that they give of their own time, so much cash that they raise but we in the public sector also have to support them," he said.

For 89% of hospices who responded to ITV News' survey, the cost of providing end of life had risen in the past two years, but has not been matched by increased funding from central government. 73% have seen their funding from their local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had been frozen or cut.

Mr Johnson said people have a "personal connection" with hospices, adding hospice workers do an "unbelievable job".

He said: "I think what people don't understand is that a huge proportion of their income, their funding, comes from voluntary contributions and how little at the moment comes from the NHS so we are putting some more money in today - another £25 million - to help hospices across the country.

Boris Johnson praised hospice workers for the 'unbelievable job' they do. Credit: PA

"But it is just the beginning of what I think is a very, very important programme to try to support a vital part of the care package we offer people towards the end of their lives.

"It's not just in the hospices, what modern hospices do now is they work in the community now in people's homes."

At St Luke's Hospice in North London, every penny counts.

They are running at a loss, spending a million pounds more than they are bringing in.

Their chief executive welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement, but said it would not stop them having to make cuts to services.

Alpana Malde, the Hospice's CEO said: "We are currently in the process of formulating a plan to reduce our expenditure, that will mean cuts and that will mean less care provided to people at the end of their lives."

Alpana Malde is chief executive at St Luke's Hospice in North London, where every penny counts. Credit: ITV News

She added: "It is not a sustainable funding stream for us. If the NHS and the government don't sit up and take notice and we have hospice failures up and down the country, I think people at the end of their lives will experience a very poor death."

The average adults hospice in the UK receives 30% of it's funding from government health budgets, for children's hospices it is 22%.

That's around £350 million a year. Hospices have to raise £1 billion pounds on top of that through donations.

In Wales and Scotland health spending is devolved - the rest must be raised through fundraising.

The CEO of Hospice UK described the financial boost as a "welcome first step" but said "structurally we need to look at the funding for hospices".

“We are pleased that the Government has responded to Hospice UK’s call for extra funding for charitable hospices in England and recognises that many are currently overstretched, amidst rising service costs and increasing demand for the care they provide," Tracey Bleakley said.

“The support pledged today is an important first step to help protect the vital care provided by charitable hospices for people with life-limiting conditions and their families.”

ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt spoke to Hospices UK CEO Tracey Bleakley about the announcement. Credit: ITV News

She continued: "They're spending £1.4 billion a year and £1 billion of that is coming from the public in terms of fundraising...

"Now do we really want a society where good end of life care is dependent on how many raffle tickets you can sell and how many people are willing to run marathons for us?"

Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed the cash would provide people at the end of their lives with the "best, most personalised and dignified choices when they die".

He said: "We should expect the highest quality support, so we can spend the last days of our life with our loved ones, dying with dignity in the way that we want to."

The £25 million in 2019/20 will be funded from existing budgets and in future years will be sustained at appropriate levels through mainstream NHS funding.