Northern Ireland Children's Hospice 'diminishing reserves' forcing cuts to services

The Children's Hospice has been facing a funding crisis.

The Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice has said its position over reducing some services remains unchanged despite an intervention from the Stormont Health Minister. Last week the hospice said it was considering cutting bed places due to a bleak financial outlook. It cited a loss of state funding and other challenges presented by the cost-of-living crisis. The hospice, which is located in north Belfast, provides specialist palliative care for more than 350 babies, children and their families every year.

On Friday, Health Minister Robin Swann announced the reinstatement of £85,000 of funding to the hospice. He also acknowledged the move will not be enough to prevent the announced reduction in some services at the facility. Mr Swann asked officials to look “urgently” at the planned bed cuts to determine the best way forward. He also announced changes to how the core funding is structured going forward. The minister said the £1.6million currently includes £420,000 that is non-recurring money and which requires annual approval. Mr Swann said that the £420,000 would be recurring from now on – a move he said would provide “greater certainty” for the hospice. On Monday, the hospice said it was “grateful for and reassured by” its core funding becoming fully recurrent, which will provide “greater confidence for the future”. But it said that with “diminishing reserves, action must be taken”, and the plan to cut beds remained unchanged. “NI Hospice has been running with an underlying deficit which we have reduced in the past 12 months – however, with diminishing reserves, action must be taken,” it said in a statement. “We very much regret the proposed further reconfiguration planned for April 2024 but recognise its necessity for our sustainability journey. Despite these challenges, we remain committed to working hard to support all families utilising hospice service in the way that best serves their needs. “We appreciate the minister’s positive approach to seeking cross-departmental input. We believe collaborative efforts can pave the way for sustainable solutions and look forward to working with him in the coming days and weeks in delivering for the hospice sector.” It is considering reducing capacity from seven beds across the week, to running six beds from Monday to Friday and three beds at the weekend.

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