Today, Thursday 17th November, the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, delivered the Autumn Statement, setting out the Government’s plans for the economy. In this blog, we highlight key areas from the announcement and the impact it will have on Sue Ryder and the people we support.
Sue Ryder and many organisations across the health sector, have been calling on the Government to publish independently verified workforce projections, highlighting the number of doctors, nurses and other health and care professionals needed in the next 5, 10 and 15 years. We were pleased to see the Chancellor's commitment to publish a comprehensive workforce plan next year, as it’s an important step towards addressing the workforce issues facing the health and care sector. Workforce projections within the forthcoming plan must account for the entire health and social care sector, and include providers of essential services, such as palliative and end-of-life care.
All parts of our health and care system must be considered equal players, so that no part of the system is left behind. And importantly, the Government’s commitment to a wider workforce plan must act on these projections to ensure an adequate workforce now and in the future.
It was also announced that the NHS budget will be increased by £3.3 billion each year for the next two years. Despite this increase in funding, government departments, including the Department of Health and Social Care, will have to identify efficiency savings in day-to-day budgets to respond to inflation.
Sue Ryder believes any potential efficiency savings must not negatively impact the care available to patients. This includes protecting services that are only partially funded by the NHS such as the charitable palliative and end-of-life care sector (PEoLC), which provides vital services around the UK.
The charitable PEoLC sector has no choice but to run efficiently. Currently, Sue Ryder Hospices and Palliative Care Hubs receive around one-third of the money required to run our end-of-life care services from the NHS. We are seeing around a 10% increase in the total costs to keep our palliative and neurological care services running. However, the NHS grants we receive for our palliative care services have increased by an average of around 1% and around 6% for our neurological care services. The shortfall in funding is plugged by the hard work of our fundraising teams.
Any reduction to hospice funding puts at risk our ability to provide adequate care to patients at the end of life and could limit the provision of quality care and patient choice.
Support for the most vulnerable
It’s important that the Chancellor recognised the need to support the most vulnerable in society with additional Cost of Living Payments that will be made in 2023-24. We believe this payment should be extended to support all patients at the end-of-life and their families. Factors such as having to give up work or work reduced hours, keep the house warm, power medical equipment, or cope with the death of a loved one; all place significant financial strain on people. The cost of living crisis is only worsening these financial burdens. People should not have to spend the final part of their life worrying about money and energy bills, or how their family will cope following their death.
Equally, patients should be able to die in their chosen location and for many this is at home. The cost of living crisis must not mean that patients cannot die where they choose because they can’t afford the increased bills and costs associated with remaining in their home. If the Chancellor is to keep his pledge to ‘protect the most vulnerable’, he must ensure all support announced for vulnerable people includes those at the end-of-life and we urge the Government to consider further measures to support end of life patients and their families.
Heidi Travis, Sue Ryder's Chief Executive, said:
“We welcome the Chancellor’s acknowledgment of the need to continue to support the most vulnerable, this must include patients at end-of-life. We all know that household finances are stretched and this is no different for patients and their families at the end-of-life, with many already facing additional costs including travel to medical appointments, running medical equipment, or needing to keep the heating on to stay warm.
“Sue Ryder is urging the government to ensure patients at the end of life and their families are fully supported through the cost of living crisis, and to help protect the hospice sector against any efficiency savings so we can continue to provide much-needed expert and compassionate care at the end of their lives.”
Our Influencing team lobbies to improve palliative, neurological and bereavement support.