NHS England has pledged to increase funding for children’s hospices to £25million by 2023/24, increasing annually from this year’s baseline of £12 million.
The funding will enable the hospices to plan and deliver lifeline care and support to seriously ill children. The funding will come directly from NHS England and will no longer rely on match funding from clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
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.
In June 2019, children’s palliative care charity 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 per cent of their funding from statutory sources, compared to 33 per cent for adult hospices. Children’s hospices rely on donations and fundraising for the remainder of their costs.
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.
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.
“I would like to thank those who have supported our campaign, including bereaved parent Gabriella Walker and the 1,600 people who have signed her open letter to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock pressing for this change. I also pay tribute to the cross-party coalition in Parliament, including ministers, who have supported this funding boost. This has been spearheaded by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children Who Need Palliative Care, and in particular Dr Caroline Johnson MP, Catherine McKinnell MP, Jim Shannon MP, David Linden MP and Baroness Brinton.”
Tracey Bleakley, CEO of Hospice UK, said:
“I’m really pleased that NHS England have listened to Children’s Hospices and families of children with life shortening conditions and have given assurances that this much needed funding increase will go directly to children’s hospices as originally intended.
“These essential services for some of our most vulnerable children and families are funded mainly from charitable donations and as both the cost and complexity of care continues to rise, we are seeing children’s hospices under increasing threat. This announcement will help make sure these children and families continue to get the support they need and deserve.”