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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 23:07 GMT 00:07 UK
Hospice funding 'must be boosted'
People can receive end-of-life care in hospices or at home
Hospice care in the UK needs greater government backing, campaigners say.

Despite the UK being the world leader in palliative care, much of the money to pay for services comes from local fund-raising.

Hospices for adults in England and Scotland receive a third of funding from government. In Wales, they receive a fifth.

The issue is highlighted to mark World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, which promotes the global need for such care.

There's still a big job to be done in making sure people do have access to hospice and palliative care - which doesn't have to be hugely expensive
Chris Shaw, Help the Hospices

The organisation Help the Hospices said the government has pledged millions to palliative care - 50m annually over the last three years.

But it said that in the UK around 400m of funding each year comes from fundraising, with around another 100m-worth of work from volunteers.

'Ad hoc system'

Chris Shaw, deputy director of Help the Hospices, said: "We are looking for better support from the NHS.

"We have seen a shift where palliative and hospice care comes higher up the government agenda, and there was a commitment made during the recent election to increase the funding for this area.

"But we don't know by how much".

Ms Shaw welcomed discussion of using a new NHS funding system for hospices which would mean a set payment for care provided, allowing organisations to budget for the year.

"At the moment, the system is ad hoc. Some hospices get what amounts to a grant; others have an agreement about what they should provide.

"But others don't know what funding they will receive from their local primary care trust until halfway through the financial year.

The organisation also says end-of-life care should be provided to all those with all terminal illnesses, not just those with cancer or Aids - who are the main focus of palliative treatment.

'Not expensive'

Professor Mike Richards, National Director for Cancer, said the government had made a "great deal of progress" in specialist palliative care services.

"We spent an extra 50m in 2003/04 in specialist palliative care, including hospices - meeting the commitment set out in the NHS Cancer plan.

"Over half of this extra investment has gone to the voluntary sector, mainly hospices, and has so far helped to fund 28 new palliative medicine consultants, 133 new clinical nurse specialists and 38 new specialist palliative care beds."

But he added: "We acknowledge that there is a lot more to be done."

Palliative care campaigners will also use the awareness day to raise the profile of the need for palliative care around the world.

They say that, each year, up to 100m people across the world could benefit from basic palliative care - 33m people who are dying, and 66m family members, companions and carers.

Chris Shaw said: "There's still a big job to be done in making sure people do have access to hospice and palliative care - which doesn't have to be hugely expensive.

"But where there are poor healthcare systems, how do you provide hospice care?"

See the care patients receive at one hospice


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