Hospices issue dire warning of closures as coronavirus sparks cutbacks in end of life care

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt

Hospices are warning they could face closure within months unless the government steps in to help them through the coronavirus crisis.

Hospice UK have told ITV News hospices are down £70 million this month alone, and a number of end of life care providers have already had to close homes and cut respite care.

Restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19 have seen the closure of charity shops and the cancellation of major events from which hospices receive the vast majority of their funding.

The average children’s hospice in the UK gets 17% from government grants, the rest is raised solely through fundraising.

“This is nothing like we’ve ever been though before,” said Tracey Bleakley, CEO of Hospice UK.

“We are not apart of the health system. If a hospice becomes insolvent, it goes.

“The shops we’ve closed, we’re still having to pay rent. The events we’ve cancelled, we still have to pay out all the costs and it has meant fundraising has fallen off a cliff.

“(On average) 70 per cent of our funding comes from public donations and a lot of that income has gone overnight. Hospices are about £70 million a month down because of this crisis.

“Hospices are an essential part of the response to the Covid crisis, because the more people we can take out of hospital and look after either in a hospice or at a home, it frees up NHS beds for people to be looked after.”

Events such as the London Marathon, which help the charity have been cancelled. Credit: PA

Shooting Star Children Hospice in Surrey told ITV News it has already had to close one of its homes and cut back on respite care for some of its children, after its funding fell by 50% in two weeks.

“It costs us around £11 million a year to operate our services, the funding we get from central government is slightly less than £1 million,” said Nigel Harding, CEO of Shooting Star Children Hospice.

“We have to raise £10 million every year just to keep the doors open and to deliver end of life care.

“If this coronavirus crisis goes on for any more than six months, we’re going to lose 90% of our income.

“I talk about pounds and pence because that’s part of my job, but actually it is heartbreaking. The people out there need us.

Nigel Harding, CEO of Shooting Star Children Hospice.

Shooting Star and hospices across the UK are urging the government to step in to help them through the next few months.

In response, the Department of Health hinted help was on its way.

We are absolutely committed to keeping hospices open during this time and are working closely with the NHS, Together for Short Lives and Hospice UK on an appropriate national response,” a spokesperson told ITV News.

“Palliative and end of life care services, including hospices, play a hugely important role in providing care for thousands at the most difficult time, and last year the Prime Minister announced a £25 million cash injection to protect the crucial service they provide.”

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

Meanwhile some hospices have put out an urgent plea for help from their local communities - not only for donations but for medical and cleaning products.

St Luke’s Hospice in Harrow and Brent say they’re running low on vital cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff” and have put out an urgent appeal.

“The safety of our patients, staff and volunteers is our absolute priority. Due to the worldwide pandemic we are all currently facing, accessing vital supplies is understandably challenging,” said Chief Executive, Alpana Malde.

“However, there are still local people who need us. It is essential that we are able to remain open, but we can only do so with the right equipment and supplies.”