Hanging by a thread - Sue Ryder responds to the Government Budget

Today, Wednesday 27 October, the Chancellor announced the government’s Autumn budget, setting out tax changes and new spending commitments.

"The hospice sector has been hanging by a thread for too long"

The government confirmed funding announcements for the NHS and social care to support their recovery from the pandemic, including tackling the elective care backlog.

Whilst we welcome these commitments, all health and care services are facing immense pressures and the hospice sector is no different. Years of government underinvestment, alongside workforce shortages and an ageing population, are placing hospices under significant strain, with one in five estimated to be at risk of closure. 

The pandemic has since exacerbated these difficulties further with increased pressures and charities battling a huge drop in fundraising activity. As a result, the outlook for hospices is now even more uncertain. Today’s Budget did little to fix this, and did not commit to a sustainable funding solution for the hospice sector. 

With the demand for palliative care expected to grow by 55% in the coming decade, the need for a sustainable funding settlement for hospices will only become more urgent.

We will continue to campaign for increased government support so that we can go on providing much-needed palliative care.

Photo of budget document

Commenting on the Budget, Heidi Travis, Chief Executive at Sue Ryder, said:

"The hospice sector is a vital arm of the health and care system and is instrumental in relieving pressure on the NHS and social care sector. Yet once again, we've been overlooked by the government and denied sustainable funding support. 

"The country’s hospices can no longer operate with ad-hoc financial ‘top-ups’ that do not address the serious long-term funding crisis we are facing. The very viability of the sector is under threat. 

“As we recover from the pandemic, we cannot forget the devastating learnings that show just how important receiving high-quality end-of-life care is. The sector has faced years of systemic underfunding and is now battling mounting pressure from the rising demand for palliative care, escalating costs facing hospices and public sector pay announcements. The hospice sector has been hanging by a thread for too long."

Workforce planning - a missed opportunity

Additionally, the Chancellor confirmed that the public sector pay freeze will end in April 2022 and reaffirmed existing commitments for 50,000 more NHS nurses. Yet a comprehensive workforce plan and investment for the whole health and care system was not forthcoming.

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the need for a strong workforce across the NHS, hospice and social care sectors. We believe that it’s time for the government to recognise the essential role healthcare charities play in care provision, not least in preventing significant extra demand on the NHS and social care services.

Without concrete action to address workforce shortages, we risk patients missing out on the high-quality, personalised palliative care that charities including Sue Ryder provide. We’re calling for the government to act now and tackle this growing crisis.

Our work with government

Sue Ryder's public affairs work aims to influence the government in England and Scotland so that they take action to improve palliative, neurological and bereavement care.