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Saturday, 27 January, 2001, 00:30 GMT
Hospices face financial crisis
Nurse at a hospice
Cash-strapped hospices have had to cut nursing staff
More than half the voluntary hospices in England and Wales are facing severe financial problems, according to an exclusive survey for the BBC's 10 O'Clock News.

The situation is becoming so bad that some experts fear the whole hospice movement could be threatened.

There are more than 150 voluntary hospices for adults and children in the country, which provide specialist care for terminally ill patients.


The question being asked is how much longer can this go on?

David Praill of Help the Hospices
But with the government providing an average of 30% of hospice running costs compared with 35% in 1998, many hospice bosses are being forced to scale down their operations and rely increasingly on donations.

Cuts include closing beds and laying off nurses. Some have also had to go into debt because of a lack of funding.

Help the Hospices, which carried out the survey, said it did not know how long the current situation could continue.

Inequalities

"Of the 102 voluntary hospices that replied, more than 50% are struggling financially, many are having to eat into their reserves, the majority only have four to six-month reserves," said its chief executive David Praill.

"A significant number are unable to develop new services that are needed in their community because of lack of funding and the question therefore being asked is how much longer can this go on?

"What we are arguing is that more needs to come from the government to support the costs of local hospice services."

Hospices have been calling for an overhaul of the way they are funded for some time.

They say the current system is too complex and there are inequalities across the country.

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See also:

09 Apr 99 | Health
New hospice plan for Scotland
25 Jan 00 | Wales
Funding fears for hospice
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