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Funding crisis puts future of children's hospices in peril, charity warns

Together for Short Lives surveyed 27 children's hospices in England and found funding from state sources had declined

Together for Short Lives surveyed 27 children's hospices in England and found funding from state sources had declined

Acorns Walsall
Acorns Children's Hospice in Walsall has announced that it could shut in October

A funding crisis is putting the long-term future of children's hospices in England at risk, a charity has warned.

Together for Short Lives is urging NHS England to protect the Children's Hospice Grant and increase it from £12 million in 2019-20 to £25 million per year.

The call comes as one organisation – Acorns Children's Hospice – has already proposed to close its hospice in Walsall in the West Midlands, citing increasing costs and funding issues.

A survey by Together for Short Lives of 27 children's hospices in England found overall contribution to expenditure from state sources, including the NHS grant, local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) has dropped from 27% in 2013-14 to 21% in 2018-19.

'Dangerous cocktail'

Hospices revealed they have been forced to use reserve funds and stop services as a result of lower levels of funding, and short breaks for respite have also been cut.

Andy Fletcher
Andy Fletcher

The charity's chief executive Andy Fletcher said: ‘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.

'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.'

Additional funding pledge

In December, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens pledged up to £7million additional funding would be made available to children’s hospices each year on top of the existing Children’s Hospice Grant, if CCGs provided additional match funding over the next five years.

However, the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January, said this additional funding would also be available to other, non-hospice, palliative care services.

Commenting on the Together for Short Lives survey, an NHS England spokesperson said: 'NHS funding for children's end of life care is going up every year and is set to more than double within the next five years, with up to £25 million going in to care as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

'We are working with local health groups – including councils which have an important role to play in these services – and Together for Short Lives to provide the kind of support that children and their families want.'

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