Valerie Vaz MP: NHS must step in to save Walsall's Acorns Hospice
The NHS must urgently increase funding for hospices to stop them from going out of business, an MP has warned.
Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz called on the Government to provide a funding boost for the sector after Acorns announced it was closing its hospice in her constituency later this year.
The Walstead Road site, which caters for 233 families, is due to go at the end of September because of rising running costs and a shortfall in donations, leading to the loss of 70 jobs.
Acorns chief executive Toby Porter is set to address address MPs in Parliament next week over the issue of hospice funding, and Labour MP Ms Vaz said it was time for a rethink over how charities operate.
Acorns currently receives around one third of its total running costs from the NHS, with the rest coming from private donations.
It is a situation mirrored by other hospices across the UK, who rely on public contributions to keep going.
Acorns says that for every £1 raised on average 37p comes from the NHS, 11p comes from its charity shops and 52p from donations. NHS England is currently reviewing its funding of hospices, meaning there is no guarantee of funding from the NHS beyond 2020.
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Ms Vaz said she was “extremely disappointed” with the plight of the hospice, and said she planned to meet Mr Porter to discuss how to save the Walsall site.
“We know the funding runs out in 2020 and I’m writing to the minister responsible to ensure that they have proper funding,” she said.
“Hospices tend to be the charities that get the least money. But it should not be the case that the Acorns Hospice, that I have visited in Walsall, should have to rely on fundraising.
“It is such a fantastic service and it is needed by the community. It is a beautiful facility with a lovely garden. It is just a wonderful, calm place. The staff are so hard working and so caring.
“They have skills that we could potentially lose. I don’t want to see job losses in Walsall.
“I know my constituents and people around the area use the hospice so travelling to Worcester and Birmingham is going to be difficult.
“It will be a tragedy if it closes and I will do all I can to stop that from happening. These are children who are at a really difficult time in their lives, and it is the same with the parents. When you see the care they are given, it is absolutely wonderful. We must do all we can to help.”
Ms Vaz called for long term funding commitments for hospices to allow them to continue, adding: “You should not have to fund raise for this kind of service. It should be mandatory. We should find the money from somewhere. There needs to be a longer term commitment.”
More than 230 children and their families are supported by Acorns in Walsall. They will be transferred to its other hospices in Birmingham and Worcester. Hope House Hospice, which along with Acorns serves children in Shropshire, says it will also help.
NHS England has been contacted for comment.