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'Bleak' survey shows 20% of cash-strapped hospices cutting services

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The current funding model for palliative and end-of-life care is “unsustainable,” a leading charity has warned, after it found 20% of surveyed hospices were cutting services due to financial pressures. 

Hospice UK is calling for new investment in the system to help “maintain care provision and ensure support for more people” as it reveals the stark results from a poll of charitable hospices.

“Failure to tackle this will store up bigger problems”

Tracey Bleakley

More than a third (37%) of hospices questioned had cancelled or delayed plans to introduce or expand services as a result of increasing cost pressures.

In addition, 20% reported they had already taken steps to reduce some services.

In terms of costs, the survey found that for more than two thirds of hospices (71%) expenses had risen faster than inflation in the past two years.

For more than a quarter of those surveyed (28%), costs had increased by more than 10% over the past two years.

In response to the increasing cost pressures, 61% of hospices had drawn on their reserves to meet funding shortfalls.

Meanwhile, 38% had taken steps to reduce their back-office costs.

The survey also found that almost three quarters (73%) of hospices have had their statutory income either cut or frozen over the past two years. 

It was also flagged that 90% of hospices said they would not have sufficient resources to meet population needs in the future. 

According to Hospice UK, charitable hospices raise the bulk of their funding though support from their local communities, such as fundraising.

However, it noted that statutory funding from the NHS and local authorities was an important part of their income.

In England, on average hospices receive a third of their funding from statutory sources, it added.

But the charity warned that this type of funding had been flat-lining over the past five years.

“Demand for their services is fast growing and care needs are more complex”

Tracey Bleakley

Following its findings, Hospice UK is now calling for “sufficient” investment across the wider system.

It noted that earlier research from the charity revealed that one in four people were not able to get the expert palliative and end-of-life care they needed.

Now the charity feared the situation could worsen.

Chief executive at the charity, Tracey Bleakley, said the survey provided a “bleak picture” of the financial outlook for many charitable hospices.

“Rising service costs and an increasingly precarious Jenga-like funding model are undermining the ability of hospices to provide care at a time when demand for their services is fast growing and care needs are more complex, with more people living for longer, often with multiple conditions,” she said.

“Hospices are an important part of a wider care system for terminally ill and dying people and it is vital that there is sufficient investment for the whole system to maintain care provision and also ensure support for more people,” she added.

“Failure to tackle this will store up bigger problems and effectively create a care deficit for people with life-limiting conditions in the future,” said Ms Bleakley.

The survey was conducted across hospices in the UK and ran from 1-12 April 2019.

Results are based on 79 responses which makes up 38% of Hospice UK’s membership.

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