Covid: Two thirds of hospices facing redundancies as government help runs out

Two in three hospices in England are now reporting financial concerns that are forcing them to plan for redundancies. Credit: PA

Two thirds of hospices in England have started planning for redundancies as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hit funding for end of life care, ITV News has learned.

Extra government support to help the sector through the coronavirus crisis stopped in the summer, leaving hospices on the brink of cuts to the care they provide.

Last month ITV News reported that a third of England's hospices - 56 out of 169 - are at financial risk and are being forced to contemplate redundancies.

Hospice UK, the national charity for hospices and palliative care, has been working with NHS England to identify the most cash-strapped providers of end-of-life care to see of local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) can step in to help.

ITV News has now learned that number has doubled, with two in three hospices in England now reporting financial concerns that are forcing them to plan for redundancies.

“More than two thirds of hospices are now considering redundancies, which will significantly affect end of life care due to worsening finances and winter pressures,” said Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK.

“The government support was invaluable in the first wave of Covid and we are hoping new funding will be agreed in time to prevent many hospice services being cut at a time when they are so badly needed.”

Tracey Bleakley is hoping the government will provide extra funding for hospices. Credit: ITV News

ITV News understands discussions between the Department of Health, NHS England and Hospice UK over more financial support for hospices are at an advanced stage but requires sign off from the Treasury.

There is serious concern among providers of end of life over staffing levels and resources heading into a busy winter period, with some hospices being asked to support Nightingale Hospitals too.

In April, at the height of the first wave, we revealed hospices were caring for 24,000 people a day - three times more than the same period in 2019.

The government gave hospices £200m to help get through the Covid-19 crisis after ITV News found hospices had lost £70m in the first month of the pandemic as fundraising all but stopped following the national lockdown.

The sector was promised money to the end of the summer, but the last payment was made in July and hospices still haven’t received August’s payment.

The average adults hospice in England receives 32% of its funding from government health budgets, for children's hospices it is 17%.

The majority of funding is received through fundraising, and despite some charity shops re-opening, large-scale fundraising events such as the London Marathon are not taking place.

Katherine House hospice in Stafford has confirmed 200 staff will be consulted on redundancies and four of its charity shops will close as they announced palliative care services will be cut unless it raises £1 million by January.

Hospices have been struggling throughout the coronavirus crisis. Credit: AP

ITV News has also learned St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley is also being forced to cut staff numbers with a predicted fundraising shortfall of around £1.5 million this year - around 15% of its income.

“The virus has put a huge strain on our income...We expect this will continue in subsequent years,” said Giles Tomsett, Chief Executive of St Catherine’s Hospice

"We will be reducing our expenditure right across the charity so that we’re as efficient as we can be during these tough times, which will result in, sadly, reducing the number of people in our wonderful team, and considering how we may adapt our services.

"It is difficult to make changes like this at our hospice, which has done such crucial work for terminally ill and bereaved people in our community over nearly 40 years, but, sadly, unavoidable if we want to make sure that St Catherine’s keeps operating successfully for another 40 years.

"Whilst we’re scaling back we will work hard to make sure this is only temporary. Our ambition to reach everyone affected by death and dying remains alive and we are determined to succeed.”

ITV News has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care for a response.