Cuts to the NHS and local councils are seriously impacting care for children with life-limiting conditions, a survey of 27 children’s hospices in England carried out by charity Together for Short Lives has found.
The survey reports that:
- In the two years between 2016/17 and 2018/19, the funding each children’s hospices received from local NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) reduced on average by more than £7,000
- In the last year, between 2017/18 and 2018/19, nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of children’s hospices experienced a real-terms cut (a cut, freeze or increase below 1.8 per cent) in the money they received from CCGs. Over half (56 per cent) of children’s hospices experienced cuts or freezes in CCG funding in cash terms.
- Funding is also very patchy and varies widely across local areas: 15 per cent of children’s hospices receive nothing at all from their CCGs.
- 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 per cent increase between 2016/17 and 2018/19, faster than the rate of inflation.
- This combination of falling CCG funding and increasing costs is hitting the most vulnerable children and their families: a fifth (19 per cent) of children’s hospice charities are cutting vital short breaks for respite.
Following the news that proposals have been made to close the Acorns Children’s Hospice site in Walsall, and the NHS commitment to increase children’s hospice funding is not being met, Together for Short Lives is calling on NHS England to keep its promise to protect the Children’s Hospice Grant and go further by increasing it to £25million per year.
Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives 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. Acorns’ proposal to close one of its children’s hospices could be just the tip of the iceberg.”
“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.”
Commenting in response, Tracey Bleakley, CEO of national hospice care charity Hospice UK, said:
“Children’s Hospice Week is a time to celebrate the work done by hospices, their staff, volunteers and supporters, in providing care to children, young people and their families. However, this report from Together for Short Lives makes clear the reality of the funding situation.
“Government funding for children’s hospice care is woefully inadequate, and is in danger of being further eroded. Everyone affected by a life-limiting condition deserves the best possible care, and this shouldn’t depend so heavily on the generosity of local people and businesses.”
Children’s Hospice Week runs until June 23
For more information visit Together for Short Lives