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‘Unsustainable’: Survey reveals huge deficit for UK hospice sector

‘Unsustainable’: Survey reveals huge deficit for UK hospice sector

The UK hospice sector is facing a collective estimated deficit of £77m for the 2023/24 financial year, according to research by Hospice UK.

The industry body’s quarterly financial benchmarking survey also found that payroll costs have surged by 11%, roughly equivalent to £130m in additional spending over the full year.

Hospice UK pointed out that the sector, which supports 300,000 people annually, recruits from the same pool as the NHS, meaning hospices generally aim to match the service’s pay and conditions to attract and retain skilled staff.

Adult hospices receive on average around one third of their funding from the state, and children’s hospices receive around one fifth, with most of the funding for essential hospice services coming from fundraising and charitable donations.

According to Toby Porter, chief executive of Hospice UK, many hospices are spending more on care than they receive in income, which he described as ‘unsustainable and extremely worrying’.

He said: ‘Many are already considering halting vital services, which will have devastating consequences for patients, their families, hospice staff, local communities and the NHS itself.’

Earlier this year, a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Hospice and End of Life Care found that despite a law passed in 2022, the way hospice services are commissioned in England is not fit for purpose.

Hospice funding is currently the subject of discussion in the House of Commons, with a debate called by Peter Gibson MP looking at how integrated care boards can address the costs for hospice-provided palliative and end-of-life care in their areas.

Mr Porter commented: ‘Costs for hospices will keep rising, and without a new model for funding end-of-life care, the coming years could be devastating for hospice care services, particularly for those in economically challenged areas.

‘We understand that public finances are tight, but we’d encourage local health boards to work with hospices in their areas to meet the needs of dying patients and their families.’

Earlier this month, the Welsh Government announced £4m to support hospice services across Wales, following a request by Hospices Cymru, supported by Hospice UK.

In England, the current funding issues have prompted St Raphael’s Hospice in Sutton to introduce a ‘Sponsor a Nurse’ campaign to help deal with staff costs.

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