The Co-founder and Chief Executive of Children’s Hospice South West has added his voice to calls for improved statutory funding for children's hospices.
Eddie Farwell said the cost of providing specialist care for life-limited children continued to rise and the demand on services was increasing.
The charity, which needs around £10million a year to run its three hospices – Little Bridge House in North Devon, Charlton Farm in North Somerset and Little Harbour in Cornwall – receives around 15% of its funding from central government via the CCG and NHS England.
Speaking during Children’s Hospice Week last week, Mr Farwell said: “I would like to assure people that due to the fantastic support that we have received from the local community over many years, Children’s Hospice South West enjoys financial stability.
“However, the cost of providing specialist care for children with life-limiting conditions rises year-on-year and the demand on our services is increasing. If we were to lose our grant from central government, or if it no longer kept up with the cost of providing complex care, our position may change over time and we could have to review the continued provision of some services.
In real terms, financial support from the NHS has diminished over the last 10 years, meaning more of our running costs comes from voluntary fundraising by our wonderful supporters.
“So we would urge the Government to review the current level of funding for children’s hospices, to recognise the burdens placed on our charity due to the increase in demand for our services and public sector austerity, and look for a long-term improvement in statutory funding.”
A survey of 27 children’s hospices in England carried out by UK children’s hospice charity Together for Short Lives (TfSL) has shown that NHS and local council cuts are hitting lifeline care for seriously ill children and that a commitment to protect and increase children’s hospice funding is not being met.
Andy Fletcher, TfSL Chief Executive, has called on NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens to keep his promise to protect the Children’s Hospice Grant – and go further by increasing it to £25million per year.
Mr Fletcher said: “All children’s palliative care services, delivered in hospitals, children’s hospices and the community, need equitable and sustainable funding.
“However, children’s hospices in England are facing a dangerous cocktail of growing costs and declining, patchy NHS funding, which is putting their long-term future at risk.
It is simply not sustainable to expect specialist children’s palliative care services provided by children’s hospices to be funded by charity reserves and the generosity of the public.
“It is time for Simon Stevens to make good on the commitment he made at Christmas by protecting the grant and increase NHS funding for children’s hospices.”
NHS England said funding for children's end-of-life care was ‘going up every year’ and is set to more than double within the next five years.
But the TfSL survey found that last year, nearly three quarters (74%) of children’s hospice charities experienced a real-terms cut (a cut, freeze or increase below 1.8%) in the money they received from CCGs. Over half (56%) of children’s hospice charities experienced cuts or freezes in CCG funding in cash terms.
The money that each children’s hospice has to spend each year to meet the needs of seriously ill children and their families has grown to an average of £3,681,442 – a 4.5% increase between 2016/17 and 2018/19, faster than the rate of inflation.
Bereaved mum Gabriella Walker has written an open letter to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, calling on him to increase the Children’s Hospice Grant. Children’s Hospice South West is joining Together for Short Lives in calling on the public to sign Gabriella’s letter.