Hospice leaders across Scotland have met Scottish Government ministers amid warnings of a “looming palliative care crisis”.
Last month, bosses estimated a £12m increase in hospice wage bills would be needed for them to compete with NHS and care service salaries.
It followed the Scottish Government agreeing a pay deal with NHS workers, which would see most receive a 6.5% uplift.
Jacki Smart, the CEO of Accord Hospice in Paisley, told STV News: “One of the things that we struggle slightly with is the notion that end of life and palliative care is a statutory requirement, it’s something that the government and local NHS should support to a greater degree, probably. And it sits at odds with us that we have to ask the public to pay for so much of it.”
The charity currently relies on fundraising and donations to make up around 60% of its income, but for others it can be as high as 70%.
In the last year, its costs have increased by £300,000.
Ms Smart added: “I could imagine that if it becomes a tough couple of economic years, that some charities might not survive that, meaning some hospices could no longer exist.”
Scottish hospice care facilities support around 22,000 patients a year, and bosses fear, without them, there could be increased pressure on NHS services.
Among the inpatients at Accord is May McGregor, who has a life-limiting illness, and relies on oxygen. She moved in at the end of January, but says prior to being admitted, she dreaded the idea.
“I’m thinking ‘weeks? I wish I only had hours’. I thought a hospice was just an old, dingy place they’d put old people in, and leave them there to pop their clogs.”
But it soon became a home away from home.
“I liked it right away, I was made to feel welcome right away. The staff here are just amazing. Honestly, they can’t do enough for you, day or night. In the middle of the night, when I’m buzzing, needing medication, it’s brilliant.
“If I didn’t have this here, I’d be stuck in the hospital, or I’d be at home, a nervous wreck, in case I took ill through the night and there was no one there to help.”
Following a meeting with the health secretary and public health minister on Tuesday, Ms Smart said: “Scottish Hospice Leaders had a very positive discussion today with Scottish Government ministers about the short and long term funding issues and the concerns were positively received. Discussions to reach an agreement of next steps will continue.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring that everyone who needs it can access seamless, timely and high‑quality palliative care.
“The First Minister has committed to ensuring that specific conversations take place about the pressures that hospices are facing, and that officials and ministers liaise with the sector to see what more support we might be able to provide.