I feel immense pride to be part of a sector that is frequently heralded for the essential services it provides, and which has been acclaimed as the world's best provider of palliative care. The entire hospice community should feel very proud, and most importantly, all those who may find themselves or their loved ones in a position where they need to seek palliative and end-of-life care should feel secure in the knowledge that they will be cared for exceptionally well.
Recently two reports were released which showed that end-of-life care is not only ranked as outstanding or good by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) at a UK-wide level but internationally acclaimed, too. In addition, National Hospice Week, which took place in October, saw activity up and down the country that raised awareness and recognition of the work that hospices do. This is cause for celebration in the hospice community and fantastic news for all those who value palliative care.
I am well aware, of course, that hospices are by no means alone in excelling in their field. The charity sector as a whole consistently provides world class, specialist support across a range of areas and increasingly fills the gaps of previously State commissioned services. I look then with interest and some anxiety at the Civil Society Almanac 2015 affirmation that in real terms, government funding of charities has fallen by £1.7 billion in two years. This has occurred at the same time that funding regulations and practices have been put to intense scrutiny and review and legislation change appear imminent.
Both the government and wider society seek world-class services. We must remember that these services cost money. Either the government provides funding, or we ask the public to contribute greater amounts through fundraising. As committed as people are to their jobs and the people they serve, (and day in, day out, I witness outstanding commitment to patients at Helen & Douglas House), high-level standards of care cannot be carried out simply for love.
I'm unclear about the message we are receiving from the Big Society. On the one hand, we are congratulated for the services we provide, yet on the other we are increasingly underfunded. Like everyone in the charity sector, I welcome reviews to our practices and I absolutely support safeguards to protect from abuse or malpractice. We must ensure that any financial ask is carried out in an ethical and moral way, but I am concerned that all avenues for support could be limited.
It is wonderful to be part of a sector that provides such a great deal to our society but I am concerned about our future. We must always seek to improve, to care for people in their hour of need and to provide world-class services to everyone who comes through the door. In turn, the government and British people have to ask themselves how they would like us to facilitate this care. Does the public want hospices paid for through taxation, or do they want to support them voluntarily, through charity-led fundraising? We will provide world class care at every opportunity - but we can only do this with public support.