Hospices face funding challenge, county councillors hear

(Photo: istock.com)
By Rebecca Curley, Local Democracy Reporter, 12 June

They provide some of the most compassionate and calming end-of-life care for patients and their families but the reality is hospices in Surrey are reaching crisis point, county councillors have been warned.

Brexit was blamed for a shortage of skilled and experienced staff as they return to European countries.

And having to compete with NHS wage increases without an increase in government funding has also hit the hospices hard, a health meeting heard.

Without the extra investment, councillors were told, some vital end-of-live services provided at the hospices around the county may have to be cut – or worse case – units closed down.

Financial shortfalls have been blamed for the closing of two hospices in England this year.

The reality of how hospices are struggling to make ends meet with a budget of millions but just funding of thousands from the government was laid out to councillors and doctors sitting on Surrey Health and Wellbeing Board on Thursday 6 June.

At the meeting at Surrey County Hall, board members, headed up by Surrey County Council leader Tim Oliver, were told the vital and compassionate work delivered at hospices was reaching crisis point.

They heard that millions was being raised in fundraising but there needed to be more support and partnership work from the councils, doctors, hospitals and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in order to help hospices deliver the end-of-life care for people and to help them die as peacefully as possible.

Speaking at the meeting, Nigel Harding, chief executive of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, said: “Funding and recruitment are my two biggest challenges.”

He said he only received £700,000 of funding from the NHS but had a budget of £10-11million.

He said they were geared up to receive children with complex illnesses adding: “We have the ability to take the pressure off acute hospitals.”

But stressed they needed more engagement from CCGs and joined-up thinking with other organisations around Surrey.

“Our units mean families can say goodbye to their children in a calm and dignified way.

“The NHS are getting away very cheaply by given us less than what it really takes to run it.”

He said there was a “danger” Surrey could lose its hospices if they didn’t get the support they needed.

And he added: “If I can’t break even this year it means I have to have a plan B and B would be closing a unit. That’s not being dramatic.”

His concerns were echoed by Sarah Brocklebank, chief executive of Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care, who said she also had a £10m turnover and that it cost her £20,000-£25,000 a day to run the hospice.

She said: “Partnership working has got to be the way forward. I don’t think just one organisation can do it.”

She pleaded with the board: “Please do support your hospices in Surrey. It’s not just about money. We have got a lot to offer.”

The board has pledged to look into ways it can work with the hospices.