Insufficient funding from CCGs is putting hospice community service at risk
The Chief Executive of St Catherine’s Hospice, Stephen Greenhalgh, has shared his concerns about the future of a vital community hospice service if a funding shortfall is not resolved.
Chief Executive of St Catherine’s Hospice Stephen Greenhalgh was responding to the publication of research from Marie Curie which highlights the needs of terminally ill people that are not being met because of insufficient funding.
St Catherine’s in Lostock Hall is a charity that receives 26 per cent of its annual £5m running costs from the NHS – the equivalent of £1.3m – whereas the national average for adult hospices is 34 per cent. This means the hospice receives the equivalent of £400,000 less compared to the national average each year.
The shortfall is putting the St Catherine’s Clinical Nurse Specialist team, who care for more than 200 patients in their own homes at any one time, at risk. By providing pain and symptom management and psychological support, the nurses help people to have a better quality of life and to achieve their wishes to remain at home.
Mr Greenhalgh, along with other senior health care professionals, said effective investment in the service was a ‘no-brainer’ – not only because it helps fulfil people’s wishes at the end of life, but because of the amount of cash it saves the NHS by reducing unnecessary hospital admissions.
Mr Greenhalgh, who also serves on the board of umbrella charity Hospice UK, said: “The stark fact is that unless something changes our community Clinical Nurse Specialists are at risk because of under-funding. More investment and wiser investment is needed if we want to care for our loved ones properly near the end of life, particularly as people live longer and with more complex conditions.
“The huge anomaly is that investment in the CNS service saves the NHS over double its running costs by avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions. Despite protracted negotiations with the local Clinical Commissioning Groups over the past 20 months, including presenting a detailed business case, nothing has changed.
“It is extremely frustrating to read the CCG’s own End of Life Care Strategy which highlights the importance of helping people to be cared for at home – which is the preference for most patients – and yet vital hospice services face closure and, we understand, the CCGs are funding other developments.
“We are grateful to everyone for supporting our fundraising efforts, which include bringing Status Quo to Hoghton Tower in July, opening a café for patients and the public, introducing new shops, increasing lottery membership and much more, but our lower than average CCG funding is putting things at risk.
“We remain very keen to progress negotiations with the CCGs – provided that they are meaningful – but unless the situation improves then sadly, we will have to make some extremely difficult decisions.”
The Marie Curie survey – which explored perceptions among a sample of 500 clinical professionals of the standards and quality of care that they encounter for those with terminal illnesses – found insufficient funding for services, a lack of coordination between teams delivering care, and time-poor staff are barriers to meeting the needs of people with a terminal illness.
Respondents said that 91 per cent of their patients who were able to access hospice care had their needs met. Mr Greenhalgh said: “When sufficient CCG funding is matched with the wonderful support of local people, hospices do a superb job.”
Another report, carried out by the London School of Economics, also highlighted health inequalities that exist depending on a patient’s geographical area, ethnicity and age. It added that investment in palliative care services for those who need them was ‘cost effective’ in the long-term and could generate net savings of £30m in England.
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