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Acorns: How poor funding has led to desperate situation

By Richard Guttridge | Walsall | News | Published:

The desperate situation at Acorns is the result of years of funding reductions which have left children's hospices across the UK in crisis.

Acorns Hospice in Walstead Road, Walsall

On average, children's hospices receive 21 per cent of funding from the NHS, down from 27 per cent five years ago.

The figure at Acorns is slightly higher at 37 per cent but is still means the charity only receives just over a third of its cash from the NHS, placing an increased importance on donations from the public.

And with those donations generally falling, it has left some hospices struggling to survive.

The Forget Me Not hospice in Bury, Greater Manchester, announced plans to close this month after only opening in January, for similar reasons to Acorns in Walsall - because funding and donations had failed to meet running costs.

It was another stark reminder of the difficulties charities face to keep hospices running.

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Charities could not have asked for better publicity recently when the Duchess of Cambridge spoke about the importance of children's hospices as part of a national day of awareness.

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While she didn't address the issue of funding, a move which perhaps could be viewed as political interference, the Duchess said described hospices as "vital sanctuaries for those experiencing the very toughest of times".

However, there is now a sign that the message is being heard. NHS England has committed to doubling funding ring-fenced for children's hospices to £25m by 2023/24, while local clinical commissioning groups (CCG) has also pledged more money.

It looks to have come too late for Forget Me Not but it has provided crucial breathing space for Acorns to try and raise the £2 million needed to save the Walstead Road centre.

Charity and campaign group Together for Short lives continues to call for more funding to be given to hospices.

Chief executive Andy Fletcher said: "Like Acorns, other children’s hospice organisations across England need sustainable funding from NHS CCGs and local authorities to maintain their services and help them plan for the future.

"I call on the government and NHS England to hold CCGs and councils to account for the money they spend on children’s hospices – and make sure that it increases to meet the growing demand for care.”

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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