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Make good your promise on children's hospice funding, says charity boss

By Heather Large | News | Published:

A charity is calling on NHS England to help secure the future of children’s hospices like Acorns by keeping its promise to protect vital funding.

Acorns children's hospice in Walsall could cease offering care from the end of September

Together for Short Lives has carried out a survey 27 children’s hospices in England. It revealed that in the two years between 2016/17 and 2018/19, the funding each charity received from NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) reduced on average by more than £7,000 – a two per cent cut from £371,303 to £364,076.

While 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 per cent increase between 2016/17 and 2018/19, faster than the rate of inflation.

Acorns Children’s Hospice has cited uncertainty over the future of the NHS Children’s Hospice Grant as a material factor in its recent decision to propose closing its Walsall hospice.

The charity has been unable to get assurances that this funding will continue beyond March 2020. This together with a drop in donations contributed to its proposal to cease offering care in Walsall from the end of September.

Together for Short Lives, which supports children living with life-limiting conditions, and their families, is worried that this could be the tip of the iceberg.

In December NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens announced 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 CCGs also provide additional match funding.

But the charity says that "NHS England subsequently rowed back on this promise in its Long Term Plan" as this stated that the additional funding will also be available to other, non-hospice palliative care services.

Together for Short Lives is now calling on NHS England to keep its promise to protect the Children’s Hospice Grant – and go further by increasing it to £25million per year.

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Chief executive 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. Acorns’ proposal to close one of its children’s hospices could be just the tip of the iceberg.

"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.”

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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