Health Policy August 21, 2019
New money for hospices welcome, but impact could fall short

By News Feature - Accountable Care Journal

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced a £25 million 'cash injection' for hospices and palliative care services. These services currently support 200,000 people.

The Government says the funding will 'help alleviate pressures' on hospices who receive the majority of their funding from the voluntary sector. Number 10 expects that the funds will lead to improvements in quality of services, boost workforce numbers and introduce new services.

In June, NHS England announced plans to increase the children’s hospice grant to £25 million by 2023/24, from £12 million in 2019/20. The extra funds will come from existing budgets which the Department of Health and Social Care anticipates will be sustained into the future as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

The announcement follows a campaign by Chief Executive of Hospice UK, Tracey Bleakley, and its Chair, Robert Peston. Ms Bleakley welcomed the announcement, although reiterated that "many charitable hospices are facing grave, financial challenges in the long-term and need to raise over £1billion a year in a very tough fundraising climate."

Care England also welcomed the new funding. However, Care England Chief Executive, Professor Martin Green, raised the importance of recognising that "care homes provide much palliative care," urging the Government to "listen to the sector and act rather than resorting to a plethora of more consultations which to date have not delivered."

How are hospices currently funded?

Funding levels for NHS hospice care are determined at the local level by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) who are responsible for ensuring that services meet the needs of the local population. CCGs have a responsibility to identify gaps in provision and ensure that services are in place. However, alongside this model, the majority of hospices are in the voluntary sector, funded by charitable donations.

NHS England commissioned Hospice UK to conduct a cost-benefit evaluation of hospice-led interventions in the community. This is expected to illuminate where best practice is being seen across the UK.

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