I feel immense pride to be part of a sector which is frequently heralded in the news for the essential services it provides, and which has been acclaimed as the world’s best provider of palliative care.
The entire hospice community should feel very proud. Most importantly, all those who may find themselves or their loved ones in a position where they need to seek palliative and end of life care should feel secure in the knowledge that they will be cared for exceptionally well.
Recently, two reports were released which showed that end of life care in the UK is internationally acclaimed and, across the UK, hospice care is ranked as outstanding or good by the Care Quality Commission.
Hospice Care Week, which took place last month, saw activity up and down the country which also raised awareness and recognition of the work that hospices do.
However, despite this success, I look with some anxiety at the Civil Society Almanac 2015 affirmation that, in real terms, government funding of charities has fallen by £1.7 billion over the past two years.
This has occurred at the same time that charity fundraising regulations and practices have been put under intense scrutiny, with legislation reviews and change appearing imminent.
Both the government and wider society want – and are increasingly expectant of – hospices to provide world-class services.
But we must not forget that to provide such services we need money. There are only two ways that this can happen, through fundraising or government funding.
As committed as people are to their jobs and the people they serve – and day in, day out, I witness outstanding commitment to patients at Helen & Douglas House – high-level standards of care cannot be carried out simply for love.
It is unclear what message the Big Society is sending to charities. On the one hand, they congratulate us for the services we provide, and on the other we are increasingly underfunded.
Like everyone in the charity sector, I welcome reviews to our practices and I absolutely support safeguards to protect from abuse or malpractice. We must ensure that any financial ask is carried out in an ethical and moral way.
But I am concerned that all avenues for support could be limited. The reduction in government funding and the current debates on charities fundraising are increasing the pressure.
How can the quality of care increase when funding is decreasing? The number of people needing care is not reducing, neither is the demand for care.
It is wonderful to be part of a sector that provides such a great deal to our society, but I feel concerned that our future could be uncertain.
We must always seek to improve, to care for people in their hour of need and to provide world-class services to everyone who comes through the door.
In turn, the government and British people have to ask themselves; how would they like us to facilitate this care? Do they want to pay for hospices through taxation, or do they want to support voluntarily, through charity-led fundraising?
We will provide world class care at every chance we have – but we can only do this with Britain’s support.