National funding for children’s hospices is to rise by as much as £25m a year, NHS England has announced today.
However, it indicated in its announcement that the total annual increase would be dependent on local NHS commissioning bodies agreeing to match the rise in funding on offer from NHS England.
“Providing help and support to families when they need it most is a top priority for the NHS”
NHS England’s hospital grant programme currently provides £11m a year for children’s hospices, helping them to provide care and support to children and families close to home at the end of life.
It said over the next five years additional funding will be available each year, increasing by up to £7m a year by 2023-24.
But this will be dependent on clinical commissioning groups also agreeing to provide extra matched funding, it said.
The government arms’-length body noted that clinical advances meant the NHS could help seriously ill children and young people with “more complex health issues live longer, more fulfilling lives”.
The move forms part of the NHS long term plan, which is expected to be published early in 2019 and will set a direction for the health service in England for the next decade.
“It is now vital that clinical commissioning groups to work closely with the NHS and local children’s hospices”
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “Looking after a child at the end of their life is the hardest thing a parent or carer will ever do, and it is vital they have somewhere to turn for help if they need it.
“Providing help and support to families when they need it most is a top priority for the NHS which is why ensuring specialised, personalised care close to home will be part of the NHS long term plan,” he said.
Andy Fletcher, chief executive of the Together for Short Lives charity, said: “This is a very welcome boost for children’s hospices.
“We know that the number of children with life-limiting conditions is growing and the care and support they need is increasingly complex,” said Mr Fletcher.
He said: “I am delighted that NHS England has recognised the gap in funding for local children’s hospices, which offer a real lifeline, providing vital care and support for families providing 24/7 care.
“The funding will enable children’s hospices to maintain and develop their services for the most complex children, and in doing so help reduce pressure on the NHS, keeping children out of hospital longer and enabling greater choice in their care and support at the end of life,” he said.
“It is now vital that clinical commissioning groups to work closely with the NHS and local children’s hospices to ensure that services are there to support families now and in the future,” he added.
“This is welcome news for children’s hospices and the families that they support”
Tracey Bleakley, Hospice UK’s chief executive, said: “This is welcome news for children’s hospices and the families that they support.
“Providing this extra funding over the next five years will help provide more stability for children’s hospices at a time when demand for their support is increasing,” she said.
“We hope that local clinical commissioning groups will take NHS England’s lead and play their part in making sure this much needed investment helps children’s hospices reach even more families in need,” she added.
NHS England noted that it continued to work with other organisations through its National End of Life Care programme to support people, including providing guidance on specialist palliative care.
As well as palliative care services for children, NHS England indicated that funding would “ramp up” over the next five years so that up to £25m was spent on hospices generally by 2023-24.