National charity warns of crisis as children's hospices are being forced to shut their doors

A national charity has slammed the sad reality that vital children's hospices in England, including one in Walsall, will be forced to close unless the NHS increases its funding and they stop being reliant on shops and fundraising runs to sustain themselves

Together for Short Lives, is the UK’s leading charity for children living with life-limiting conditions and works closely with the 34 children's hospices around the country. The charity have highlighted a 'dangerous cocktail' of higher costs and a drop in state funding.

A report from Together for Short Lives has shown that children's hospices in England each spend an average of £3.7 million per year, which equates to a total annual spend across the country of £125 million - an increase of 4.5% since 2016/17. However in the last five years, the contribution of the state has dropped from 27% to 21%, meaning hospices have been forced to use their reserve funds or stop services.

In the West Midlands, Acorns Children's Hospice has said it may have to close it's Black Country facility in Walsall later this year. The closure would mean more than 200 children would lose vital support and 70 jobs would be lost, unless it can raise more than £1.5 million to keep it open.

The charity runs a network of 50 shops in towns and high streets around the West Midlands and In the past year has supported 787 children and 1,223 family members The head of Together for Short Lives, Andy Fletcher, said the situation at Acorns could be just the tip of the iceberg. He said:

"It is simply not sustainable to expect specialist palliative care services, provided by children's hospices, to be funded by charity reserves and the generosity of the public."

The charity wants the NHS to increase the Children's Hospice Grant from £12 million in 2019/20 to £25 million per year. Mr Fletcher also said NHS funding was 'patchy', with one hospice receiving almost 48% of its charitable expenditure from the state in the last financial yearm, but another getting just 7%. One in six hospices said they had received no funding from their local clinical commissioning groups in 2018/19. An NHS England spokeswoman said:

"NHS funding for children's end of life care is going up every year and is set to more than double within the next five years, with up to £25m going in to care as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

"We are working with local health groups - including councils which of course have an important role to play in these services - and Together for Short Lives to provide the kind of support that children and their families want."


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