Hospices warn of "long term threats" if funding fails to improve

IN an unprecedented move, the chief executives of all eight adult hospices serving Sussex are each calling for the money they get from Primary Care Trusts to better reflect their costs.

And they have warned of long-term threats that could face hospice services in the community unless their funding link with the National Health Service is improved.

Sussex hospices are currently the most poorly-funded of their kind in the UK, with only 22 per cent of their core funding coming from Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), compared to the national average of 32 per cent.

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Among them is cash-strapped St Michael's Hospice, St Leonards-on-Sea, which last year announced a 520,000 funding deficit.

This is despite Sussex hospices providing a service to some 2.2 million people, and which they claim would leave local NHS providers struggling if they had to do it themselves.

The hospice campaign coincides with the general and local elections, and each hospice boss has written to candidates, plus existing councillors, to rally support for their cause.

The hospices involved are: St Michael's Hospice, St Leonards-on-Sea; St Wilfrid's Hospice, Eastbourne; St Barnabas Hospice, Worthing; St Catharine's Hospice, Crawley; St Peter and St James Hospice, North Chailey; St Wilfrid's Hospice, Chichester; the Martlets Hospice, Hove, and the Hospice in the Weald, Pembury.

The PCTs covering the eight hospices are: West Sussex PCT, Brighton and Hove PCT, East Sussex Downs and Weald PCT and Hastings and Rother PCT.

The hospices want suitable funding on a sustained basis and a minimum contribution of 50 per cent of core costs, agreed in partnership with PCTs.

And they have called for a House of Commons' public accounts committee recommendation for three-year rolling funding agreements to be adopted by PCTs.

The hospices claim that redirecting funds from acute care to hospice care would not only provide a better quality of care and a greater choice for patients but also prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.

And they believe that hospices and PCTs working more closely together is the best way to boost the provision and quality of end-of-life care.

People can back the campaign by downloading a template letter from the Friends of East Sussex Hospices' website, www.fesh.org.uk, signing it and sending it to their appropriate politicians.

Kathy Gore, chairman of FESH, said: "Hospices are heavily dependent on the generosity of thousands of local people who support them both financially and by volunteering their time and skills.

"This joint initiative is designed to gather political and local support for our messages and to raise awareness of the financial savings enjoyed by PCTs through services provided by hospices in Sussex."