Children’s hospices to receive funding boost under NHS plans

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Health officials will increase funding for children’s hospices to up to £25 million a year, the head of the NHS has announced.

Simon Stevens said care of terminally ill children was a top priority for the NHS, as he promised an expansion of services which mean help can be provided close to home.

Mr 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.”

NHS England’s hospital grant programme currently provides £11 million a year for children’s hospices, helping to provide care and support to children and their families close to home in their final days.

Health officials today said they will make up to £7m extra a year available by 2023/24, if local NHS commissioning groups agree to match it, taking the total boost up to £25m.

Andy Fletcher, chief executive of charity Together for Short Lives said: “This is a very welcome boost for children’s hospices which provide such crucial care and support to seriously ill children and their families across England.

“We know that the number of children with life-limiting conditions is growing and the care and support they need is increasingly complex. 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.

Why is the NHS under so much pressure?

  • An ageing population. There are one million more people over the age of 65 than five years ago. This has caused a surge in demand for medical care
  • Cuts to budgets for social care. While the NHS budget has been protected, social services for home helps and other care have fallen by 11 per cent in five years. This has caused record levels of “bedblocking”; people with no medical need to be in hospital are stuck there because they can’t be supported at home
  • Staff shortages. While hospital doctor and nurse numbers have risen over the last decade, they have not kept pace with the rise in demand. Meanwhile 2016 saw record numbers of GP practices close, displacing patients on to A&E departments as they seek medical advice
  • Lifestyle factors. Drinking too much alcohol, smoking, a poor diet with not enough fruit and vegetables and not doing enough exercise are all major reasons for becoming unwell and needing to rely on our health services. Growing numbers of overweight children show this problem is currently set to continue

Tracey Bleakley, Hospice UK chief executive, said: “This is welcome news for children’s hospices and the families that they support.  The children and young people supported by hospice care have complex needs associated with life-limiting conditions, and hospices provide a lifeline to them and their families.“Providing this extra funding over the next 5 years will help provide more stability for children’s hospices at a time when demand for their support is increasing.  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.”Hospices provide care for people from the point their illness is diagnosed as terminal, until the end of their life.  Hospice care does not necessarily need to be continuous and patients can take a break if their condition has become stable and are feeling well enough.Care teams can help control symptoms such as pain or breathlessness, with a child staying at the hospice for a short period of time before going home again.They can also offer respite care where the child’s family or carers can have a break for a short while.



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