Worcester MP Robin Walker has joined calls for more financial support for hospices. In a Westminster Hall debate on hospice services Robin joined calls for funding which could help them deal with rising energy prices and allow them to match NHS pay rises for 2022-24.
The debate, organised by Eastleigh MP Paul Holmes, received cross-party support from across England, with many of the MPs attending calling on the government to create a sustainable future for hospices. Hospices are a critical part of the health and care system. They provide care and support to 300,000 people a year across the UK and work across the system to reduce pressure on the NHS and train and support heath and care workers.
Robin also praised the work of St Richards’ Hospice in Worcester, congratulating them on their 40th anniversary, alongside Acorns childrens’ hospice who are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. Although well supported by the community, St Richards’ CEO Mike Wilkerson said that the hospice was dealing with challenges caused by inflation including increasing energy prices.
Robin said: “I’m fortunate to have two brilliant hospices in my batch, St. Richard’s, and Acorns Children’s Hospice and I remember the first time I visited St. Richard’s. There was a sense of trepidation, this is a place where people go to die – wouldn’t it be a very sad and depressing visit? Not at all, not a bit of it. I was amazed at how uplifting and how positive that was.
“A few months later, sadly, I got to know the hospice better. Just a month after I was elected, my father was admitted to St. Richard’s Hospice and they provided amazing care, incredible support to the family, and I echo the words of the Honourable Lady for Bolton and South East when she talked about the people dying with dignity, with their loved ones around them.
“Now what St. Richard’s tell me is that only about £700,000 of their £12 million income comes from the NHS and comes from the public purse. They’ve been offered an uplift of 1.8% by our ICB, which would be worth about £40,000. A 1% pay rise for their staff would cost about double that.
“I don’t ask ministers to take over funding for hospices, or for the NHS to take a much larger share of hospice funding, but I do think its fair to ask them to provide help when its inflation, and the government’s own pay increases that are driving up costs for the hospices.
“I know the ask from Hospice UK is for £30 million of government funding to offset the increase in energy bills, and £102 million for hospices in England to keep pace for NHS pay rises in the next year. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable ask. When it comes to children’s hospices, they also do an amazing job. They’re also uplifting and inspiring places.
“Certainty about the children’s hospice grant would be incredibly helpful in that respect. This is a grant which has sustained children’s hospices, which has kept them going year after year. But the short-term nature of that has become a problem for them. We recently saw some very welcome news from the government when it came to sports funding in schools, where they finally provided a muti-year settlement, after many years of not being able to do that. I hope they consider doing the same for children’s hospices – a multi-year settlement would make a massive difference and giving some certainty that the grant will be renewed is essential.”
Responding, Minister of State for Social Care, Helen Whately MP, said:
“We’ve heard from so many colleagues this morning, Darlington, Aberconwy, Bolton West, Torbay, North West Norfolk and Worcester… In the course of today’s debate, many fantastic local hospices have rightly been praised for what they do for our communities.
“Recognising the importance of palliative and end-of-life care for children and young people, NHS England provided £25 million specifically for this, via the Children’s Hospice Grant during this financial year. I have, of course, heard the calls for this grant to be continued, and also the calls for greater continuity and visibility of funding further out. I can’t say more on this today, but I can assure honourable members that I have been speaking to NHS England about this funding beyond this year. I do expect further news to be communicated about this shortly, appreciating the level of concern about this amongst honourable members and children’s hospices.
“In addition, last year NHS England released £1.5 billion extra funding to integrated care boards, recognising the extra cost due to inflation in the provision of services that integrated care boards commission. ICBs have been responsible for distributing this funding, according to local need.
“I want to make one point as I close, against the backdrop of financial concerns - the strength of hospices in their communities - and actually the importance, as was mentioned by one of my honourable friends [Robin Walker MP], that they are not solely financially dependent on the state and on the NHS for their funding. It is really important that hospices are successful in fundraising and gaining support from our communities – and actually that is one of the strengths of their model.”