Campaigners attended Parliament last week to press upon members the importance of continuing the Children’s Hospice Grant to secure the future of childrens’ hospices. At the meeting, the Minister of State for Social Care gave a welcome verbal commitment to NHSE providing £25 million of funding to children’s hospices in 2024/25.
Worcester MP Robin Walker attended in support of the campaign and is pleased to see NHS England return to its commitment on the funding. Robin has consistently pressed for increased hospice care funding, having worked closely with Acorns Children’s Hospice in his constituency. Last week he called for more funding for St Richards Hospice and Acorns’ Children’s Hospice in his constituency.
The campaign event was organised by Together for Short Lives, a UK charity for children’s palliative care who support and empower families caring for seriously ill children and aim to build a strong and suitable children’s palliative sector.
Central to the event, and the main issue raised by Together for Short Lives, was the predicted impact of NHS England’s plan to end the crucial £25 million annual Children’s Hospice Grant at the end of 2023/24. In 2022/23, when the total grant was worth £21 million, it represented, on average, 15% of charitable spending by children’s hospices. A cut to this funding would have threatened vital end of life care, short breaks for respite, and services to manage children’s symptoms. Together for Short Lives impressed on the MPs that attended the event that UK Government ministers must urgently protect the £25 million Children’s Hospice Grant, distribute it centrally through NHS England as a ringfence fund as it is now, and increase it by the rate of inflation.
However, children’s hospices across England have noted that NHSE has not committed to allocating the funding as a central grant. We understand that officials are strongly considering an option whereby the funding is distributed to integrated care boards (ICBs) to allocate to children’s hospices. UK children’s palliative care charity Together for Short has stressed to ministers and officials that this approach could have serious consequences for the sustainability of children’s hospices and undermine support for children and young people with life-limiting conditions.
Speaking in Westminster Hall, Robin said:
“The grant has sustained children’s hospices, it has kept them going year after year, but its short-term nature has become a problem for them... A multi-year settlement would make a massive difference, and giving some certainty that the grant will be renewed is essential.”
Following the debate and the event with Together for Short Lives, NHS England committed to continue providing the grant for 2024/25 to ensure that Acorns Children’s Hospice and other like it can plan for the future. Going forward, Robin will continue to campaign for hospices of all kinds to ensure they have the required support to provide their crucial service for families.