Government’s £125m funding for hospices welcome – but not enough, warns Ashgate Hospicecare

Ashgate Hospicecare has welcomed the news that an additional £125 million will be provided by the Government as part of their COVID-19 Winter Plan to support hospices during the Coronavirus pandemic but reiterated that it is not enough to deal with the overall impact the pandemic is having on the hospice’s finances.

The charity, which provides specialist end-of-life care to patients with complex palliative care needs across North Derbyshire, estimates that COVID-19 is likely to cost the hospice at least £2.4 million in lost revenue and expects its income will continue to suffer in future years.

Ashgate Hospicecare are currently awaiting a decision from NHS Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group about additional funding for the next financial year, which would save the charity from being forced to reduce their services and make compulsory redundancies.

Barbara-Anne Walker, Chief Executive at Ashgate Hospicecare, said: “We are pleased that the Government has recognised the integral care and support delivered by hospices on the frontline every day.

“This will help use to survive this difficult year, but it doesn’t resolve the gap between our funding and the cost of our care which is growing year on year. It certainly won’t be enough to stop us having to make redundancies in the New Year. For that, we need more long-term, recurrent funding from local budgets and the CCG for the next financial year.

“At Ashgate we receive just 28% of our total funding from the NHS. The amount they give us hasn’t increased since 2014 – a decline in real terms – meaning we must rely on our fundraising and charity shops to make up the difference.

“In the middle of a pandemic the last thing that hospices such as ours need to be doing is making job cuts but that is the situation we are in. And short-term help from the Government for the next few months just won’t be enough given that COVID is going to impact our income for months if not years to come.

“This is a ‘now or never’ moment if we are going to prevent job cuts and a reduction in crucial end-of-life care services when they are needed most.”

‘Forever grateful to Ashgate Hospicecare’

One person who understands just how important hospice care is at the end-of-life is 68-year-old Sarah Thomas from Stretton in North East Derbyshire.

Sarah’s partner of 38 years was admitted to Ashgate Hospicecare after being diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) five years earlier.

Sarah said: “We were introduced to Chris, a palliative care nurse from Ashgate who supported Jackie in coming to terms with what was happening to her physically and emotionally, while keeping me going too.

“Jackie was a strong woman with a big personality, she was also extremely caring. Even at the end, Jackie wasn’t afraid of dying, she was just worried about the rest of us – especially me.

“As Jackie’s condition progressed, she was no longer able to make decisions but the staff at Ashgate always discussed all the options with me and together we were able to respect her wishes. It was important to both of us that her wishes were listened to and I always felt in a partnership with the hospice in that respect.

“During our time on the ward, the staff were considerate in leaving us to spend time together, while always being on hand to offer the prompt nursing support that Jackie needed to keep her safe and comfortable.

“It was reassuring to know that she was very safe there. I shall forever be grateful to Ashgate Hospicecare for all they did for Jackie and for all they continue to do for me.”

Years of chronic underfunding must end

Ashgate Hospicecare have been told that the CCG will decide whether they will increase their funding for next year and save end-of-life care services in the region by the end of this month.

Barbara-Anne continues: “We have suffered years of chronic underfunding of the care we deliver across North Derbyshire and now the future of our services lies in the balance as we wait to hear from the CCG.

“Urgent action is needed today to ensure that our care is delivered in a financially sustainable way and to ensure that our services are not reduced. Not only would this be catastrophic for the families we support, but it would also result in further pressure on the NHS, an organisation already stretched far beyond its capabilities.”

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