UK children’s palliative care charity, Together for Short Lives, has welcomed NHS England’s decision to ring fence £25 million of NHS funding to support children’s hospices by 2023/24, increasing annually from this year’s baseline of £12 million.
This welcome pledge will take the pressure off children’s hospices and better enable them to plan and deliver lifeline care and support to some of England’s most seriously ill children. The funding will come directly from NHS England and will no longer rely on match funding from clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which is very good news for those delivering children’s hospice care across England.
NHS England also says that it recognises that palliative care services provided by children’s hospices are currently not universally available. It plans to carry out a needs assessment to understand whether additional investment nationally or from CCGs is required where children’s palliative care is provided by other, non-hospice services.
NHS England’s decision follows Together for Short Lives’ long-term campaign calling on the government to:
- Increase the Children’s Hospice Grant to £25 million.
- Provide parity of statutory funding between children’s and adult hospices
- Develop a fully-funded children’s palliative care strategy.
In June 2019, Together for Short Lives published new research on statutory funding for children’s hospices in England which revealed that NHS and local council cuts are hitting lifeline hospice care for seriously ill children. Currently, children’s hospices receive on average just 21% of their funding from statutory sources, compared to 33% for adult hospices. Children’s hospices rely on donations and fundraising for the remainder of their costs.
Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive for Together for Short Lives said:
“This is a really welcome commitment to invest in children’s hospices at a crucial time. We know that the number of children with life-limiting conditions is growing and the care and support they need is increasingly complex. With this complexity comes greater cost and I am pleased that NHS England has listened to concerns raised around a growing funding gap.”
“All children’s palliative care services, delivered in hospitals, children’s hospices and the community, need equitable and sustainable funding, so it is most encouraging to hear that NHS England has also pledged to review the wider availability of children’s palliative care to understand what additional resources are needed across the sector. Today’s announcement will give children’s hospices more confidence to plan and deliver their services and provide vital support to meet the needs of seriously ill children and families.”
Across England, 40,000 babies, children and young people with life-limiting conditions rely on palliative care to enhance their quality of life, manage symptoms and provide their families with much needed help and rest. The number of these children is increasing and they need more complex care across health and social care services. The bulk of this 24/7 care is provided by families. Respite care provided by hospices is a lifeline for families, helping to relieve pressure on parents and siblings and maintain their physical and mental health. Crucially, many children’s hospices can also provide children with the choice of where they receive care at the end of their lives and support them throughout this journey, whether at home or in the community.
The funding will provide much-needed confidence that will enable children’s hospices to maintain and deliver their services to seriously ill children, and in doing so help reduce pressure on the NHS, keeping children out of hospital longer and supporting the wider family.