Voluntary hospice movement underpins NHS, says Sue Ryder hospice director in response to reports of 118,000 patients being denied end of life care

Elise Hoadley, our Director of Gloucestershire-based Leckhampton Court Hospice has responded to Hospice UK reports that 100,000+ people a year are left without the vital hospice care they need across the UK.

The findings, from Hospice UK, report that more than 118,000 people with a terminal or life-limiting condition are denied specialist palliative hospice care because of funding pressures within the NHS.

Elise Hoadley commented:

"It is hard to imagine but 50 years ago there were no hospices in the UK providing specialist end of life care. The first voluntary hospice was established in 1967 by Dame Cicely Saunders and today we are blessed to have a number of hospices right across the country that are profoundly changing the way people with life-limiting conditions are cared for.

"The hospice movement came from a place of charity," she continues, "and today our hospices still rely heavily on the money raised through the support of local people, community groups and businesses to be able to continue giving their care. Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice certainly could not carry on providing our specialist palliative care without the fundraising support of the very local communities we are here for.

"We welcome this report as we hope it will make more people aware of the vital role the voluntary sector plays in end of life care, and encourage more people and organisations to support us.

"We have a very real ongoing need to generate an ever-increasing level of income through fundraising so we can keep on giving our specialist care. The cost of providing our care has increased and we are providing care to ever-increasing numbers of people, despite no increase in central funding. We are Gloucestershire's only inpatient hospice and we can only continue with charitable support."

Hospices are used to funding pressures

Elise adds that the report may come as a surprise to some people, but reassures people that the hospice is used to operating its care services during NHS funding pressures.

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court's care services include its inpatient unit, Day Hospice, Hospice at Home, befriending and bereavement services, all given to patients and families free of charge, but cost £8,000 a day to provide.

"We work hard with our colleagues in the NHS to make sure we continue providing our specialist hospice care to those who need it when they need it most," explains Elise. "We carry on delivering our care through the funding challenges faced by the National Health Service only with the fundraising support of our local communities.

"It is known nationally that, without independent hospices, the need for good-quality end of life care would not be met due to lack of resources - not because of the lack of the skills of the many great doctors and nurses and other healthcare professionals who work in our NHS."

How the voluntary hospice sector underpins the NHS

"We do all we can to underpin the NHS service. Take, for example, our Hospice at Home service. This team complements the work of the District Nursing Service to make sure patients can receive care in the place that they want to. Our specialist team also collaborates closely with other voluntary providers in the county to provide our Hospice at Home service to patients with fast-track continuing healthcare funding, even though this pays for a third of the cost of this service. Through this joint way of working, our Hospice at Home Service has provided 100% preferred place of dying at home for patients in their care.

"At Sue Ryder, we do what we can to help reduce costs for the NHS too. Our Day Hospice service helps people to continue to live at home, avoiding hospital admission and helping facilitate timely discharges from hospital, while our befriending service addresses loneliness and isolation, which can again help to avoid hospital admissions.

"We hope the report by Hospice UK will raise the profile of hospice care, and that more people choose to support us by donating and fundraising so we can carry on giving people in Gloucestershire the end of life care they need and deserve," Elise concludes.