It has generated great anxiety for the staff who run hospices, patients and their families.
Paul Farthing, Executive Director of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, said: “We gratefully receive funding from the Government
but has not committed to providing this in the long term. If this vital source of income ceases, services at children’s hospices across England will be at risk.
“We would have no choice but to cut costs or rely on our supporters to increase the difference, and with the cost of living crisis, this is a big question.”
Many hospices say that if the subsidy does not continue, they would have to consider cutting services with a reduction in care picked up by the overburdened NHS.
The grant provides around £1 in every six spent by children’s hospices on care. But officials have refused to commit to extending it past 2023-2024.
Children’s hospices are charities and most have to organize fundraising for 80 per cent of their income with a fraction coming from the NHS and councils.
An audit by Hospice UK, the national end-of-life and palliative care charity, led to an estimate that hospices will spend £186m more than they take in over the next year.
And hospices’ energy bills will rise by £29m as they struggle to operate in “the most difficult economic climate in history”.
Centers are grappling with rising energy and food costs, plummeting donations and the need to match NHS pay premiums.
A total of 38 percent of hospices received no more or reduced levels of government funding last year. And 96 percent are budgeting for a deficit this fiscal year. The average adult hospice in England gets 32 percent of its funding from health budgets, while children’s hospices get 17 percent.
It means that everyone relies heavily on community fundraising. But, with bills rising, people with complex end-of-life needs could soon be left without support, as some hospices could be forced to close.
Toby Porter, chief executive of Hospice UK, said: “Children’s hospices need immediate clarity on how much funding they will receive from the next phase of the Children’s Hospice Grant and how it will be delivered. We cannot continue to trust that communities can increase their donations.
“This funding approach would be unacceptable in any other area of our healthcare system, and it shouldn’t be acceptable in end-of-life care either. If maternity services depended on marathons and bake sales, there would rightly be an uproar. However, essential hospice care for children appears to be increasingly dependent on fragile and unpredictable sources of income.
“All children’s hospices in the UK want to be able to commit to being able to help any child or family in need – a simple but incredibly important promise.
“But to do so, the sector needs long-term sustainable financing. We are asking the government to recognize this and to inform children’s hospices if and how this vital funding will continue.”
An NHS spokesperson said last night that the service has committed to a five-year funding program for children’s hospices in 2019. He added: “Discussions are currently underway with the hospice sector to determine arrangements beyond this financial year.”
The Daily Express is campaigning for hospices to get the support they need.