Hospices stretched ‘to the brink’ amid £16m funding deficit

The sector has called on the Scottish Government to provide more cash in its Budget.

Hospices stretched ‘to the brink’ amid £16m funding deficit Getty Images

Hospices in Scotland are having to budget for what the sector describes as an “unprecedented” collective deficit of £16m.

The situation has led to representatives calling on the Scottish Government to provide additional funding for hospices in this week’s Budget.

National charity Hospice UK said “spiralling” staff costs due to NHS pay increases plus rising running costs are stretching hospices “to the brink”.

The organisation said many are being forced to consider cutting “vital” services and draw on their limited reserves to meet the shortfall.

It is estimated the sector provides care and support to around 21,000 children and adults in Scotland a year and demand for palliative care is predicted to rise by a fifth by 2040.

Hospice UK said that on average, two-thirds of hospice income comes from fundraising but it is feared the cost-of-living crisis may lead to a significant dip in donations.

The charity said these funding pressures are compounded by “huge variation” in the levels of local statutory funding hospices receive across the country.

It said this can lead to inequity for patients and families and creates a “postcode lottery” in terms of how palliative care is funded.

Helen Malo, policy and advocacy manager for Scotland at Hospice UK, said: “Hospices care for some of the most vulnerable people in society, but many are now worrying about the future of their services.

“Hospices need urgent support to ensure they can continue delivering high-quality care for people at the end of life – without worrying about how to pay their hard-working staff a fair wage.

“To expect hospices to match this through further fundraising, at a time when their local communities may be struggling themselves, is increasingly untenable.

“Scottish Government must commit additional funding for hospices in its upcoming Budget to help address the huge £16 million deficit facing the sector and ensure hospice funding is sustainable in the long term, so hospices can continue to support the people who need them most.”

Jacki Smart, chair of the Scottish Hospice Leadership Group, said: “Hospices across Scotland are facing the immense challenge of meeting rising costs without additional funding.

“With staff costs contributing such a significant amount to the collective deficit figure, it is unreasonable that hospices have to rely on charity to pay their dedicated staff a fair wage whilst Government support funds the increase paid to similar staff in the NHS.

“Our staff provide brilliant and compassionate care to people at the most vulnerable time of their lives. They should be valued and treated equally with NHS colleagues who do the same.”

Rami Okasha, chief executive of Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (Chas), said: “The numbers of children in Scotland who may die young is going up, and the highly specialist care they need from Chas is getting more complex.

“Yet the value of Scottish Government funding to Chas is declining in real terms. Unavoidable cost pressures – including inflation and NHS pay increases – mean we face a budget deficit that fundraising alone can’t bridge.

“Urgent action is needed in the Scottish Government Budget to ensure that lack of funding doesn’t stand in the way of seriously ill children and their families getting the level of unwavering care they need and deserve.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We understand the pressures hospices are currently facing and strive to support independent hospices where possible.

“The public health minister has visited a number of hospices over the last few months, and held an open and honest discussion with hospice leaders and Health and Social Care Chief Officers earlier this month.

“We will continue to work with chief officers and independent hospices to support longer term sustainable planning and commissioning for the sector.

“Independent hospices are highly valued and provide vital support to people and their families, as well as other health and social care services and teams delivering palliative care.

“The financial position across Scottish Government is extremely challenging and work is ongoing to identify measures to address the continued challenges in 2023-24 and beyond.”

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