Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been warned “time is of the essence” to save Britain’s hospices from financial collapse.
Charities are calling for an urgent funding increase to help the country’s 200 hospices which provide care for more 225,000 people a year.
The homes for people with terminal and life-limiting conditions rely on voluntary donations for two-thirds of their income.
But many are struggling to raise funds at a time when there is an increased demand for their services.
The Daily Mirror is campaigning for the Government to double its funding to hospices, end the postcode lottery of hospice care, recruit more palliative care doctors and community nurses and to guarantee that all terminally ill children receive end-of-life care.
In a letter to Mr Sunak ahead of next week’s Budget, the charity Sue Ryder says the lack of secure funding is putting care for vulnerable people “at unnecessary risk.”
“By providing specialist palliative care, hospices including hospice at home help the wider system by freeing up hospital beds that would otherwise be occupied by people at the end of life.
“Yet our financial situation is putting the future of hospices and the people for which we provide essential care at risk,” says the letter from Sarah Gigg, the Director of Nursing at Sue Ryder.
The letter continues: “Time is now of the essence. As this is an area of care that affects everyone with a terminal illness – and as our population ages and palliative care needs increase – I urge you to put in place the necessary funding mechanism to place the sector on a sustainable footing, fit for the future.”
NHS England has pledged to raise funding for children’s hospices to £25million in 2023/24, and the Conservative Party pledged to “support our precious hospices” in its election manifesto.
But the charities are warning that this a sticking plaster that does not address the underlying problems.
A recent report from Together For Short Lives, a group which represents hospiceusers, warned of a “children’s palliative care workforce crisis”.
It said services were at “breaking point” because of a growing shortage of palliative care doctors and nurses.
There are just 15 children’s palliative care consultants in the UK when there should be 40 to 60.
Meanwhile, one in eight nursing jobs in the sector are currently vacant.
The Royal College of Nursing recommends there should be around 5,500 community children’s nurses in England, but the NHS only has 574.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “End of life care is vitally important, and the NHS is committed to caring for people from cradle to grave. Last year the Prime Minister announced a £25million cash injection to protect hospices and palliative care services so people across the country will have the best, most personalised and dignified choices when they die.”
OPINION: This is not Dickensian London – it is today in our towns and cities
By Ilora Finlay
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff is a crossbench peer and a professor of palliative medicine.
The mark of a civilised society is the way it looks after its most vulnerable citizens.
And people are at their most vulnerable when illness, loneliness and poverty combine, and they are facing their own mortality. At that point, hopes and dreams of being fit and well have faded fast.
Increasing numbers of people are now below the line in terms of entitlement to any support funding.
They live in the shadows of doorways, stations and even shelter in bins at night to escape the cold and rain.
This is not Dickensian London – it is today in our towns and cities up and down our country.
More and more young adults are finding themselves homeless and caught in the downwards spiral of ill health.
Often their only solace is found through their addiction to drugs and alcohol that may have been taken to numb the pain of abuse or trauma they experienced.
And so the downward spiral spins ever onwards.
In some parts of Britain hospices, with their specific expertise in looking after people who are dying, have followed those charities that have support the homeless and highlighted their needs for so many years.
Some hospice staff have been reaching out to the homeless, dying in hostels, and recognised that care needs to go to the person.
They have also recognised that for someone completely alone in the world their dog may be the most important ‘person’ in their life and the only one they can relate to and trust.
Care provided needs to cater for the dog too!
It is these hospices, without statutory funding, who have recognised this unmet need, seen the need for inclusive care of those dying young and that such care must adapt to the realities of life of the homeless person as life fades.
Care must reach out to all in need if we claim to have true compassion across our society.
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