THE BLOG

Statutory Funding for Adult and Children's Hospices Is Persistently Patchy

20/07/2015 11:48 BST | Updated 20/07/2016 10:59 BST

How much funding do you think charitable hospices get from the NHS and local authorities?

It often surprises people to know that hospices for adults receive on average only around a third of their income from statutory sources, while children's hospices receive on average 17%.

Yet statutory funding for all hospices from clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and local authorities in England remains patchy and inconsistent, with sweeping variations across the country.

Charitable hospices need to raise the bulk of their funds through fundraising - a big ask to their local communities and indeed to hospices themselves as they need to constantly come up with a series of imaginative ideas to raise funds - from Sunflower Memories appeals to Santa fun runs.

Collectively, they need to raise £1.9 million per day - amounting to more than £9,000 per hospice each day.

Because of this, coupled with the ongoing challenges of raising money amidst the increasingly competitive charity fundraising environment and current climate of austerity, the income from statutory funding for adult and children's hospices is crucial.

Charitable hospices in England care for around 360,000 people each year - 120,000 patients and 240,000 family members - providing 26 million hours of care and potentially saving the NHS and social care millions of pounds every year.

Yet for many hospices statutory funding levels are dwindling according to new research from Hospice UK and Together for Short Lives.

More than two thirds of the hospices surveyed reported that their statutory funding was frozen or slashed in 2014/15 - largely because of financial restrictions on NHS commissioners or stand still budgets.

The survey of 117 hospices in England shows that nearly a fifth of hospices surveyed (17%) - both children's and adult hospices - had their funding reduced. For more than half of hospices surveyed (52%) funding has remained static.

Almost three quarters (74%) of hospices in England surveyed expect their funding to be either frozen or cut again during this financial year. For many hospices this comes after several years of freezes in statutory funding.

More than eight in ten hospices surveyed (85 per cent) do not think their hospice is being funded fairly and sustainably by the NHS according to our survey of hospices.

While it is the case that some CCGs have increased funding, this has been predominately to develop new services rather than to increase funding for core services.

There are early signs that the lack of fair and sustainable funding is beginning to have an adverse effect on hospice services.

A number of hospices are subsidising the shortfall through their reserves, freezing staff recruitment or putting service development on hold.

Others have warned they are likely to have to review the services they offer and may not be able to continue to provide the same level of care in the near future.

Hospice UK believes CCGs should be investing in hospice care - to help the NHS to cope with increasing demand, such as reducing the number of people who are in hospital at the end of life, with no need to be there.

Freezing or cutting funding is both short-sighted and potentially damaging, especially as demand for hospice care continues to rise and will grow even more in the future, due to the UK's rapidly ageing population. This means that in future more people will be living for much longer with long-term, and often multiple, health conditions.

Hospice UK and Together for Short Lives are calling on the Government to set out how it will bring about fair and sustainable statutory funding for hospice and palliative care.

We want to see a fairer, more sustainable system in place and for this to be introduced soon.

If hospices are forced to reduce the level of care they provide, it will only lead to more pressure on already overstretched NHS services.

Furthermore, failure by the NHS to act soon will be storing up huge problems for how our society supports terminally ill and dying people in the future.

This all highlights the continuing importance of the support that hospices receive from their local communities.