Anger over hospice funding lottery

HOSPICES in East Anglia have called for a Government review of the way they are funded as figures show there is a postcode lottery for NHS money.There are discrepancies in the amount of cash the three adult hospices in Suffolk and Essex gain from their local Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).

HOSPICES in East Anglia have called for a Government review of the way they are funded as figures show there is a postcode lottery for NHS money.

There are discrepancies in the amount of cash the three adult hospices in Suffolk and Essex gain from their local Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).

And while the Government has pledged that hospices should be given 40% of their funding from the NHS towards their patient care costs, none of the three are being granted as much as the target.

Instead they are avoiding debt only because of the fundraising might of the communities they serve and the legacies their grateful patients leave - but it is not an income they can predict nor rely on.


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It comes as Help the Hospices, the charity looking after England's hospices, said a quarter of adult hospices face financial deficit and the amount of charitable funding had to be increased even further to cover the “unmet need” for services.

While Government funding has risen over the last eight years, it has slipped from 35% of expenditure in 1997 to 33% in 2005, the charity said.

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St Elizabeth Hospice, in Ipswich, said it received 37% from the NHS for the cost of running patient services.

St Helena Hospice, which has sites in Colchester and Clacton, said the PCT had given it 30% towards patient care costs and this represented 36% of its total income.

St Nicholas Hospice, in Bury St Edmunds, said it gets 33% towards its service delivery from the PCT but the cash represents less than 25% of its total incomings.

At St Elizabeth Hospice, in Ipswich, there is a “deficit operating budget”, this year amounting to £200,000.

But the hospice said it has no reason to believe that the strong legacy income it has historically received will not “more than make up” for the deficit.

Chief Executive Lesley Cockerton said: “The Government has already agreed in principle to cover the costs of services that the hospice provides, which would otherwise be the state's responsibility.

“However, more money is needed as throughout the country the government funding to hospices varies from between 25 and 60 per cent.”

Rosy Stamp, director of St Helena, said: “We will have broken even last financial year but only because of legacies.

“What our officers want is quality of treatment for all our patients and we need some sort of parity and consistency across the UK so hospices are fairly treated. Why should one person in one area have 43% of their hospice care covered by the NHS while another has only 36%? How can that be fair?”

Ron Overton, chief executive of St Nicholas' Hospice, called on the Government to ensure an adjustment was made so the hospices could be funded equally when the east and west Suffolk PCTs merge, adding funding of around 40 to 50% was needed.

“We are well below the national average and it seems to me that the PCT should have addressed that but instead it reduced it. We were near 31% five years ago and that has eroded over time.”

A spokesman for Suffolk West PCT, which funds St Nicholas, said: “The figure we pay them is a mutually agreed amount and is not a reduction on last year. In fact, over the last two years the amount of funding they have received has increased.”

A spokesman for Colchester PCT disputed the figures St Helena had given, saying it gave 39% last year.

“We are still discussing with them what the funding agreement will be this year but we are not expecting any reduction in the amount.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk East PCTs said it does meet the 40% Government target, with 37% going to St Elizabeth's and the remaining 3% to another service provider in the Waveney area.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health added: “We are committed to improving end of life care across the board and hospices play a critical part in this.”

ST ELIZABETH HOSPICE

Annual costs: £2.7m

Receives from NHS: £970,408

ST HELENA HOSPICE

Annual costs: £4.2m

Receives from NHS: £1.2m

ST NICHOLAS HOSPICE

Annual costs: £3.4m

Receives from NHS: £840,000

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