Committee backs hospices over concerns in level of funding

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A funding crisis facing hospices in North Yorkshire and York has been highlighted by a health watchdog which has pledged to hold talks to help to tackle the financial shortfalls.

North Yorkshire Council’s scrutiny of health committee has become increasingly concerned about the reduction in funding to support some of the county’s hospices.

The committee’s members have pledged their support to St Catherine’s Hospice in Scarborough, St Leonard’s Hospice in York, and Saint Michael’s and Herriot Hospices, which are merged as North Yorkshire Hospice Care, based in Harrogate and Thirsk in helping to raise awareness of the issues facing the trusts.

At their meeting this month (December), members heard from the chief executive officers of all three trusts about the struggle they face in raising sufficient funding to continue to provide adequate end-of-life and palliative services. This includes specialist inpatient beds, community-based end-of-life care, outpatient clinics, lymphoedema services and bereavement counselling and support.

The chair of the scrutiny of health committee, Cllr Andrew Lee, said: “I think I speak for the whole committee when I say how shocked, saddened and concerned we are upon hearing the situation within our local hospices and the funding shortfall they face.

“These hospices, and many others, provide a very important and much-needed support network both for patients and their families at a very sad and vulnerable time. We must do all we can to raise awareness and support them to allow them to continue to provide this essential service.”

The committee heard a number of factors were contributing to the situation, including lack of funding, increased running costs, reduced income from fundraising and differing funding models and contracts that provide income from the NHS.

“The committee and I fully appreciate that the country faces huge financial challenges,” said Cllr Lee. “The cost of providing services across these three hospices is about £20 million, with more than 70 per cent of that having to be raised through fundraising alone.

“I shall be highlighting this with my colleagues in the NHS as we need to ensure we are all doing our utmost to support and raise awareness of this situation.”

He said any significant shortfall in funding could lead to a reduction or closure of some services.