Hospices Warn Of ‘Funding Crisis’

Welsh hospices say they are facing a financial crisis which threatens the future of their services. Charity Help the Hospices said Welsh Assembly Government funding commitments were not enough to solve long-term financial issues. The 12 charitable hospices in Wales receive only 15% state funding on average, compared with 40% in Scotland.

The assembly government said it had promised £2m for Welsh hospices in next year’s budget. Help the Hospices has welcomed the commitment, but has questioned the difference it will make.

Olivia Bell, from the charity, told BBC Wales’ The Politics Show: “There are 12 independent hospices in Wales so £2m into 12 doesn’t really go that far. “It is a welcome addition to the income of those hospices, but it doesn’t really resolve the long term funding issues that hospices have been facing.”

Help the Hospices say a £10m contribution made by the assembly government in 2003 has now been spent, making the financial situation worse.

Hospices in Wales have also pointed out the 15% assembly government funding is lower than other areas of the UK. In England, the government has said it hoped to provide half hospices’ core funding by 2008.

Margaret Pritchard, from George Thomas Hospice Care in Cardiff, said: “The local health boards [LHB] gave us last year £196,000 – that’s 20% of our running costs. In England the average is between 32% and 40% and they’re over 40% in Scotland.”

Other hospices have claimed they have found it difficult to engage in constructive talks with LHBs over funding issues John Savage, from Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham, said the first words at meetings with Wrexham LHB were usually: “We have no money.”

“They don’t want to sit down and talk to you about sustainable services, how we fit in to the community,” he said. “They will not speak to us as an equal partner in the commissioning of health services in the area of Wrexham.”

But Wrexham LHB told BBC Wales it valued Nightingale House’s services, was in continuing dialogue with the hospice and understood funding concerns.

The Liberal Democrats will use an assembly debate on Tuesday to call for a review of hospice commissioning.