Many may be forced to cut vital services
Jonathan Ellis is Director of Advocacy & Change at national hospice charity Hospice UK, which supports and champions more than 200 hospices across the UK
In recent months we have again witnessed the impact of severe winter pressures on the NHS which has left hospitals buckling
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It is important that more people are aware about the benefits of hospice care. This will become ever more urgent in the future as our ageing population increases, with more people living for longer, often with complex health conditions. In addition, more children and young people with life-shortening conditions are living for longer due to advances in medical care.
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Hospices also have an important part to play in raising awareness of the new national commitment to end of life care. Their longstanding expertise in providing quality, compassionate care and their widespread links with organisations across their local communities, means their role will be crucial to help deliver the transformation in care for dying people that the Government desires and which is so urgently needed.
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In recent years there has been a string of national reports highlighting persistent failings in care for dying people, whether in terms of the quality of care provided or problems getting the right support.
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Hospice UK is committed to working with hospices to turn this new framework's ambitions into reality. We hope these ambitions will provide fresh impetus for change and galvanise leaders of health and care services to take active steps to improve end of life care for all.
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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%.
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Walford and Holby aside, I have visited hospices across the UK and I am yet to see one that would be described anything like "dingy" or "grotty".
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This week the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) published a new report Dying Without Dignity featuring a string of shocking cases of poor care experienced by dying people and their families.
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More recently, the new inspection regime introduced by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) - the regulator for health and adult social care in England - is helping provide a better understanding of quality in hospice care.
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The reality is that hospice care is delivered in a surprising range of settings, including in people's homes. In fact 90% of hospice care is delivered away from a hospice building. Hospice teams are also involved in educating staff working in other settings such as care homes and hospitals.
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These are tough economic times for statutory funding of healthcare. It would be unrealistic to expect NHS funding for hospice care, which has on average made up a third of funding (32 per cent) for adult hospices and 17 per cent for children's services, to be exempt from this.
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There are many challenges too for hospices. Not everybody will choose to hold a personal health budget at the end of life. Some will prefer to receive their care in the more traditional way.
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Just how important are volunteers to hospices and could their role change in the future? All charities rely to some extent on volunteers to support their work but for hospices they are crucial and always have been ever since the modern hospice movement was first founded by Dame Ciceley Saunders in the UK back in the 1960s.
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While New Year's resolutions are still fresh, many of us have no doubt been looking at how we spend our time and how we can introduce positive changes this year. Time is precious for all of us, but this is especially true for people who are terminally ill. This affects individuals in different ways but many choose to embrace life as fully as possible and indeed are supported to do this by hospices across the country.
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Does the need for hospice care seem a distant reality to you? Or is it something you have thought about and which you or your loved ones might need one day?
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