Funding cuts and freezes for hospices in England

Sep 01, 2014
29 July 2014

Half of hospices surveyed in England have had their NHS statutory funding either cut or frozen this year largely due to financial restrictions on NHS commissioners according to a new survey released today by Help the Hospices.

More than a tenth of hospices surveyed (11 per cent) have had their funding reduced. Nearly four in ten of hospices surveyed (39 per cent) have had their funding frozen.

In addition, nearly a fifth (18 per cent) of hospices surveyed - which are still waiting to have their funding levels agreed for this year - said they expected funding to be cut or remain static.

The majority of hospices surveyed said the cuts and funding freezes were largely because of financial restrictions on NHS commissioners. Hospices reported that the drop in statutory funding had adversely impacted on inpatient care and home-based services. This included some hospices either having to reduce the number of slots available for hospice at home services, keep staff vacancies open longer to make savings or being forced to halt the expansion of a 24-hour advice line.

The size of the statutory funding cuts across the hospices surveyed ranged from just below one per cent to as high as 20 per cent. The impact of this was varied, as each hospice receives a different proportion of funding from the NHS. For example one hospice had a six per cent cut which amounted to £46,000 less funding. This would pay for more than 2,000 hours of nursing care.

Another hospice had its funding reduced by nearly two per cent, which also amounted to £46,000 less. This would cover the daily cost of providing a bed on their inpatient unit for three months.

Jonathan Ellis, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Help the Hospices said:
"The findings of our survey show a much tougher financial outlook for hospices as far as funding from the NHS is concerned. It comes as hospices are facing increasing demand for their services due to the UK’s ageing population."

"The variation in cuts highlights a much wider issue, namely the uneven, patchwork of current statutory funding for hospices across England. Funding is set at completely different levels, varying widely from hospice to hospice, both within and across geographical regions."

"We need fairer funding for hospices. It should not be a ‘lucky dip’ determined by postcode alone, but based on the actual needs of terminally ill and dying people in different areas. We sincerely hope this will be addressed in the new funding system for palliative care that the Government has promised to deliver."

The survey also showed how commissioning and contracting arrangements are still causing issues for hospices. More than half of hospices surveyed (53%) said they faced increased costs to handle the additional bureaucracy involved or needed to dedicate extra staff time for this.

A steadily increasing number of hospices are working with commissioners to develop co-commissioning agreements that better reflect the relationship between the NHS and hospices which in addition to being providers of care are also major funders of this.

Notes to Editor

  • Help the Hospices conducted the survey among its members across England between April and May 2014. A total of 114 hospices completed the survey - a response rate of 70 per cent. The survey included feedback from both adult and children’s hospices. There are a total of 163 hospices in England.
  • Hospices for adults only receive on average a third of their funding (32 per cent) from the Government and have to raise the rest themselves through charitable funds. This figure is lower for children’s hospices - 17 per cent on average. There are high variations in the levels of statutory funding for all hospices across the country.
  • Help the Hospices is the UK’s leading charity for hospice care which supports and champions the work of more than 200 hospices across the UK.
  • Hospices provide vital care for people with terminal illnesses and life-limiting conditions and also support their families and carers.
  • For further information about hospice care visit our website.

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