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Saturday, 23 October 2021
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Charity urges government to end hospice funding crisis

SUE Ryder, a leading provider of specialist palliative care in the UK, has commissioned an independent report looking into the rise in demand and cost for end of life care services over the next ten years.

  • Currently, 245,000 people in the UK are expected to receive palliative care in the coming year. Sue Ryder’s research shows this is expected to increase to 379,000 people per year by 2030.
  • Independent hospices only receive around one-third of the money required to fund their end-of-life services from the government.
  • The running costs of the palliative care sector are estimated to be £947 million a year between now and 2030, and if government funding remains the same, the hospice sector will be required to fundraise £597 million every year in order to keep hospices open.
  • Sue Ryder is calling on the government to end the funding crisis facing the palliative care sector and commit to covering 70% of hospice provision costs.

Despite the Health Secretary repeatedly stating in Parliament that the government is committed to investing in ‘high-quality palliative care’, no sustainable funding has as yet been forthcoming.

Sue Ryder has been providing expert and compassionate palliative care to people at the end of their lives for 65 years. The charity says that without a commitment from the government to fund 70 per of the costs for the palliative care sector, there is a serious risk it will collapse.

The statutory funding increase will cost the government an additional £313 million per year. However, the alternative, which will most likely see the end of the independent hospice sector, will result in the NHS having to provide end of life care services which would be an additional cost of £484 million each year for the government.

Not only that, the NHS would not have the capacity to provide the same level of specialist holistic support that hospices offer, so patients and their families would lose out.

Heidi Travis, Chief Executive at Sue Ryder, said:

“I think it will come as a surprise to many that their local hospice is reliant on the generosity of members of the public who choose to donate or fundraise.

“Put plainly, in order to pay the salaries of our doctors and nurses who provide expert care, pain and symptom management to people at the end of their lives, we rely on people buying second-hand clothes from our charity shops or running a marathon and asking their friends and family for sponsorship. It is unfathomable that such a critical part of our healthcare system is hanging by a thread.

“Whilst the government has provided some one-off funding in the past year to allow hospices to support our NHS during the pandemic, the hospice sector has papered over the cracks for as long as possible. The country’s hospices can no longer operate with ad-hoc financial ‘top-ups’ that do not fundamentally address the serious long-term funding crisis facing the hospice sector.”

Emma Rayner, whose mother died at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice, pays testament to the care her family received:

“I do not think any words will fully encompass what the care provided by Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice meant to mum and to us as her family and how essential it was in being able to start our healing journey.

“Once Mum was transferred to the Sue Ryder hospice, I truly felt like a weight had been lifted, and I was able to just be her daughter again, rather than her carer, someone who arrived each day to jab her in her stomach. Instead, I was able to sit with her, hold her hand and make precious memories. What greater gift is there to give to a family at the end of their loved one’s life?

“Hospice care is as essential to families who use it as a maternity unit is to new parents or as a care home is to the elderly and their families. It would be a massive loss to society if hospices were not able to carry on doing the amazing work they carry out day in and day out.”

Without independent hospices, people would be reliant on receiving palliative care through the NHS.

An anonymous case study shared her experience of losing her mum on a busy hospital ward:

“We didn’t know about hospices or what they did, so my Mum ended up spending her last days on a hospital ward. The doctors and nurses didn’t know how to deal with a patient who was at end of life, and two of them even said to us, ‘we’re not trained in palliative care, so we can’t help you.’

“There was no communication. We didn’t even realise she was about to die. Whilst she had a terminal diagnosis, we thought she had a good few months left and was just having a bad spell. I remember finding out because I overheard a doctor say they should have the bed back in a few days as she wouldn’t make it past the weekend.

“When your mum is dying, all you want for her is to not be in pain and to be able to say goodbye. There was nobody on the ward qualified to manage palliative pain relief, and my brothers and my dad and I had to say our goodbyes on a ward with all the other patients and their relatives sitting a couple of metres away chatting about the weather.”

Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles South and member of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, said:

“Hospices are a vital part of our healthcare system, allowing people to spend the end of their lives in a supportive and caring environment with their family and loved ones. Despite this, the Government provides only a third of the funding hospices need to function.

“Essential healthcare services should not be reliant on fundraising and donations from members of the public to remain open. The Government’s approach of offering short-term financial packages that are not adequate to the sector’s needs cannot continue.

“Failing to invest in our hospices now risks much-loved institutions closing their doors for good, leaving people without the access to high-quality end-of-life care which they deserve.”

Sue Ryder runs hospices and palliative care hubs across England. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, its charity shops closed overnight, and its fundraising activities stopped with immediate effect. Currently, Sue Ryder is facing a funding shortfall of over £1million a month whilst its doctors and nurses continue to play a vital part in the coronavirus effort.

To find out more about Sue Ryder or make a donation, please visit: www.sueryder.org.

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