It’s time to end the hospice funding crisis

08 Mar 2021

Sue Ryder, a leading provider of specialist palliative care in England, is calling on the Government to commit to more sustainable funding for the hospice care sector having commissioned an independent report looking into the rise in demand and cost for end-of-life care services over the next ten years.

Sue Ryder has been providing expert and compassionate palliative care to people at the end of their lives for 65 years. The charity says that without a commitment from the government to fund 70 per cent of the costs for the palliative care sector, there is a serious risk it will collapse.

Despite the Health Secretary repeatedly stating in Parliament that the government is committed to investing in ‘high quality palliative care’, no sustainable funding has as yet been forthcoming.

  • Currently 245,000 people in England are expected to receive palliative care in the coming year. Sue Ryder’s research shows this is expected to increase to 379,000 people per year by 2030. 
  • Independent hospices only receive around one third of the money required to fund their end of life services from the government.
  • The running costs of the palliative care sector are estimated to be £947 million a year between now and 2030 and if government funding remains the same, the hospice sector will be required to fundraise £597 million every year in order to keep hospices open.
  • Sue Ryder is calling on the government to end the funding crisis facing the palliative care sector and commit to covering 70 per cent of the costs of hospice provision.

The statutory funding increase will cost the government an additional £313 million per year. However the alternative, which will most likely see the end of the independent hospice sector, will result in the NHS having to provide end-of-life care services which would be an additional cost of £484 million each year for the government.

Not only that, the NHS would not have the capacity to provide the same level of specialist holistic support that hospices offer, so patients and their families would lose out.

Heidi Travis, Chief Executive at Sue Ryder, said:

“I think it will come as a surprise to many that their local hospice is reliant on the generosity of members of the public who choose to donate or fundraise.

“Put plainly, in order to pay the salaries of our doctors and nurses who provide expert care, pain and symptom management to people at the end of their lives, we rely on people buying second hand clothes from our charity shops or running a marathon and asking their friends and family for sponsorship. It is unfathomable that such a critical part of our healthcare system is hanging by a thread.

“Whilst the government has provided some one-off funding in the past year to allow hospices to support our NHS during the pandemic, the hospice sector has papered over the cracks for as long as possible. The country’s hospices can no longer operate with ad hoc financial ‘top-ups’ that do not fundamentally address the serious long term funding crisis facing the hospice sector.”

Emma Rayner, whose mother died at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice, pays testament to the care her family received:

“I do not think any words will fully encompass what the care provided by Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice meant to mum and to us as her family and how essential it was in being able to start our healing journey.

“Once mum was transferred to the Sue Ryder hospice, I truly felt like a weight had been lifted and I was able to just be her daughter again, rather than her carer; someone who arrived each day to jab her in her stomach. Instead, I was able to sit with her, hold her hand and make precious memories. What greater gift is there to give to a family at the end of their loved one’s life?

“Hospice care is as essential to families who use it as a maternity unit is to new parents or as a care home is to the elderly and their families. It would be a massive loss to society if hospices were not able to carry on doing the amazing work they carry out day in and day out.”

Without independent hospices, people would be reliant on receiving palliative care through the NHS. 

An anonymous case study shared her experience of losing her mum on a busy hospital ward:

“We didn't know about hospices or what they did so my mum ended up spending her last days in a hospital ward.

“When somebody close to you is dying, those last days live with you forever. All you really want is to be able to say goodbye and for them to be pain free.

“The doctors and nurses on the ward had not been trained in palliative care or managing pain at end of life and it was so awful to see my mum in discomfort and my brothers, my dad and I had to say our goodbyes on a ward full of other patients and their relatives sitting just a couple of metres away.”

Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles South and member of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, said:

“Hospices are a vital part of our healthcare system, allowing people to spend the end of their lives in a supportive and caring environment with their family and loved ones. Despite this, the Government provides only a third of the funding hospices need to function.

“Essential healthcare services should not be reliant on fundraising and donations from members of the public to remain open. The Government’s approach of offering short term financial packages which are not adequate to the needs of the sector cannot continue.

“Failing to invest in our hospices now risks much-loved institutions closing their doors for good, leaving people without the access to high-quality end-of-life care which they deserve.”

Your support is still needed now more than ever

During this challenging time, support for our vital care is more crucial than ever. Sue Ryder is currently experiencing a funding gap of over £1 million each month and we are losing an additional £500,000 a week as a result of our shops being closed.

We are so grateful for all the support we have received, but still urgently need your help so our Sue Ryder Nurses and expert healthcare teams can be there when it matters, for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

If you would like to support our work, you can make a donation online.

Thank you once again for your continued support.

All statistics in this press release are taken from the report‘Modelling demand and costs for palliative care services in England’, conducted by London Economics and commissioned by Sue Ryder.

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