Hospice bosses have told of their fears that a vital service could be closed if a funding shortfall isn’t resolved.
St Catherine’s Hospice in Lostock Hall receives the equivalent of £400,000 less funding each year compared to the national average, and says its vital team of community clinical nurse specialists (CNS) could be forced to fold if the gap isn’t closed.
More investment and wiser investment is needed if we want to care for our loved ones properly near the end of life, particularly as people live longer and with more complex conditions
Chief executive Stephen Greenhalgh was responding to the publication of research from Marie Curie, which highlights the needs of terminally ill people that are not being met because of insufficient funding.
St Catherine’s receives 26 per cent of its annual £5m running costs from the NHS – the equivalent of £1.3m – whereas the national average is 34 per cent. It means the hospice is losing out on approximately £400,000 each year.
The shortfall is putting the hospice’s clinical nurse specialist team, who care for more than 200 patients in their own homes, at risk.
Mr Greenhalgh said: “The stark fact is that unless something changes, our community clinical nurse specialists are at risk because of under-funding.
“More investment and wiser investment is needed if we want to care for our loved ones properly near the end of life, particularly as people live longer and with more complex conditions.
“The huge anomaly is that investment in the CNS service saves the NHS over double its running costs by avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions.
“Despite protracted negotiations with the local clinical commissioning groups over the past 20 months, including presenting a detailed business case, nothing has changed.
“It is extremely frustrating to read the CCG’s own End of Life Care Strategy which highlights the importance of helping people to be cared for at home – which is the preference for most patients – and yet vital hospice services face closure and, we understand, the CCGs are funding other developments.
“We remain very keen to progress negotiations with the CCGs – provided that they are meaningful – but unless the situation improves then sadly, we will have to make some extremely difficult decisions.”
A statement from NHS Chorley and South Ribble CCG and NHS Greater Preston CCG said: “The CCGs fund a range of services to look after people at the end of their life, including a variety of at-home, community and hospital-based palliative care services.
“These are commissioned from NHS providers and also voluntary sector providers such as Marie Curie and Tender Nursing Care.
“The CCGs also give St Catherine’s Hospice a grant of £1.3m every year for them to use to provide end of life services, which includes their community nursing service.
“The hospice has also received additional funding to run other projects and pilot schemes.
“Part of the role of a CCG is to continually review how and where money is spent on health and care services to make sure they meet the needs of local residents and that they are sustainable and appropriate.
“The CCGs will continue to talk to St Catherine’s Hospice and other NHS and voluntary sector providers to review priorities and make sure funding is spent on the right areas and services.”