Call for more hospice funding
THE Government was last night accused of “complacency” over its reliance on public generosity to support care for terminally ill.The accusation was levelled by the chief executive of St Nicholas Hospice who called on the Government to stump up an extra £850,000 a year to support the palliative care offered to hospice-users.
THE Government was last night accused of “complacency” over its reliance on public generosity to support care for terminally ill.
The accusation was levelled by the chief executive of St Nicholas Hospice who called on the Government to stump up an extra £850,000 a year to support the palliative care offered to hospice-users.
Just five years ago, Government funding accounted for about 30 per cent of St Nicholas Hospice's budget.
Today, it accounts for just 25 per cent of the Bury St Edmunds-based hospice's £3.5 million budget.
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This dependency on public support - which hospices value greatly - has sparked concern amongst managers.
The Department of Health, however, claimed its spending on palliative care, including hospices, had increased greatly over the years and had launched a number of schemes aimed at helping the terminally ill.
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Ron Overton, chief executive of the hospice, said: “Of our £3.5 million budget, I would like us to get about £1.7 million from the Government. Without it we simply can't do as much as we would like to do. The Government needs to accept responsibility.”
He said he felt the Government had become “complacent” in recent years over hospice funding because it knew members of the public gave so generously.
He added he would like to see the Government's contribution to hospice funds increase from about 25 per cent to between 45 and 49 per cent claiming he was happy to give up some autonomy in exchange for closer working with the health service.
Mr Overton's call for more money followed a national survey carried out by Help the Hospices, which revealed 78 per cent of people thought at least half of all hospice funding should be provided by the Government.
Barbara Gale, clinical services director at St Nicholas Hospice, said: “This survey shows how much hospice care is valued. As a charity we rely on the huge support the public give us locally in order to give patients and their families the care they need.
“We are presently in the first phase of expanding our services to include 'hospice at home', which includes additional Macmillan nurses who now work at weekends. More Government funding would certainly alleviate the burden of funding currently met by the local community.”
But the Government's track record of financing palliative care was defended by the Department of Health.
A spokeswoman for the department said: “We have made a great deal of progress in specialist palliative care services.
“We spent an extra £50m in 2003/04 in specialist palliative care, including hospices - meeting the commitment set out in the NHS Cancer plan.
“Over half of this extra investment has gone to the voluntary sector, mainly hospices, and has so far helped to fund 28 new palliative medicine consultants, 133 new clinical nurse specialists and 38 new specialist palliative care beds.
“In 2004 we launched the “End of Life Care” initiative which will see an extra £12m invested over 3 years to train staff working in general practices, care homes and on hospital wards so that all adult patients nearing the end of life, regardless of their diagnosis, will have access to high quality palliative care.
“We acknowledge that there is a lot more to be done.”