Catherine urges NHS England to meet children’s hospice promise

Newcastle North MP, Catherine McKinnell, has marked Children’s Hospice Week by calling on NHS England to keep its promise to the protect the Children’s Hospice Grant – and go further by increasing it to £25million per year – by tabling this Early Day Motion in Parliament.

Catherine – who is the co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Children Who Need Palliative Care – also hosted an event in Parliament, alongside the charity Together for Short Lives and APPG co-chair Dr Caroline Johnson MP, to discuss the challenging funding situation currently facing children’s hospices across the country as a result of NHS and local authority funding cuts and the rising costs of providing care.

A new report published by Together for Short Lives has found that, across England:

  • In the two years between 2016/17 and 2018/19, the funding each children’s hospice charity received from local NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) reduced on average by more than £7,000 – a 2% cut from £371,303 to £364,076.
  • In the last year, between 2017/18 and 2018/19, nearly three quarters (74%) of children’s hospice charities experienced a real-terms cut (a cut, freeze or increase below 1.8%) in the money they received from CCGs. Over half (56%) of children’s hospice charities experienced cuts or freezes in CCG funding in cash terms.
  • Funding is also very patchy and varies widely across local areas: 15% of children’s hospice charities receive nothing at all from their CCGs.
  • The money that each children’s hospice has to spend each year to meet the needs of seriously ill children and their families has grown to an average of £3,681,442 – a 4.5% increase between 2016/17 and 2018/19, faster than the rate of inflation.
  • This combination of falling CCG funding and increasing costs is hitting our most vulnerable children and their families: a fifth (19%) of children’s hospice charities are cutting vital short breaks for respite.

There are around 49,000 babies, children and young people living in the UK with health conditions that are life-limiting or life-threatening – and that number is rising. Many of these children have complex conditions and need specialist care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, had announced on 27th December that, over the next five years, up to £7million additional funding would be made available to children’s hospices each year on top of the existing £11million Children’s Hospice Grant, if local CCGs also provide additional match funding. However, NHS England subsequently rowed back on this promise in its Long Term Plan, which stated that the additional funding will also be made available to other, non-hospice palliative care services.

Catherine said:

Children’s hospices across the country – including St Oswald’s in Newcastle – provide absolutely crucial support to seriously ill children and their families, with very little contribution from the state. They receive enormous support from local communities to keep these important services open, but the long-term sustainability of these organisations – and the very specialist clinical care they provide – really shouldn’t have to rely on never-ending fundraising drives and the public’s generosity. Children with life-limiting conditions and their families don’t have time to waste during what can be the most challenging time imaginable.

‘I’m really proud to celebrate the fantastic work that children’s hospices do, and to continue to press for that to be finally reflected in fair and sustainable funding.’

 Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives, said:

‘All children’s palliative care services, delivered in hospitals, children’s hospices and the community, need equitable and sustainable funding. However, children’s hospices in England are facing a dangerous cocktail of growing costs and declining, patchy NHS funding, which is putting their long-term future at risk. It is simply not sustainable to expect specialist children’s palliative care services provided by children’s hospices to be funded by charity reserves and the generosity of the public. It is time for Simon Stevens to make good on the commitment he made at Christmas by protecting the grant and increase NHS funding for children’s hospices.’