Sixty Second Interview with Stephen Collinson
By Amy Taylor
Stephen Collison is healthcare director of Sue Ryder Care
You have said that you faced a £7 million shortfall in funding last year for services you provided to councils and primary care trusts due to them not paying the full costs. How did you make this up?
Currently Sue Ryder Care has to use the money the charity raises from voluntary sources to fill the gap between what the state commissions from us through social services and Primary Care Trusts and the actual cost of the care we provide.
We launched our ‘We Care: Who Pays?’ campaign to raise awareness of the critical impact of shortfalls in statutory funding for the palliative and neurological care services. Our campaign asks government to look closely at the true cost of the care provided and, importantly, support measures to enable us and other similar voluntary sector providers to recover costs from local commissioners. Currently central government says it supports the principle, but change is simply not happening on the ground.
What consequences did this have?
Over the last few years, and most recently in the Health White Paper ‘Our health, Our Care, Our Say’, the state says it wants the voluntary sector to play a greater role in delivering care services, and describes it as a key element in health and social care reform.
The money the charity gains from donations should be used to develop new services, maintain facilities and offer extra support to those in need ~ not meet statutory shortfalls. If we cannot develop our services then the step change that the government is asking for will be difficult to achieve.
Access to palliative and neurological care services will remain a “postcode lottery” for the public because of inequalities in funding by local commissioners. This must be addressed if high quality care and support is to be provided to all those who need it.
Sue Ryder Care is providing modern specialist palliative and neurological health and social care services, in line with policy, but funded in many cases by a model based on Victorian philanthropy. Risk sharing, more equitable and long-term contracting are essential if the government is genuine in its desire to make the voluntary sector a key player in health and social care
Is this problem faced by other charities?
It is a common problem across many charitable providers of care. However, it appears where similar services are offered by statutory or private suppliers, they have more equitable contracts and can expect their full costs to be covered.
Do you think the situation where statutory services don’t pay the full cost of services is sustainable?
The current situation is unsustainable. Sue Ryder Care exists to provide vital care where NHS and Social services do not have the expertise, experience or capacity to operate – It does not exist to top up the shortfall in government budgets. The question is what kind of voluntary sector does the state want?
Do you think the government needs to take action to ensure charities are able to recover their costs?
Yes. There is still a gulf between the government’s national policy which supports Full Cost Recovery and the actions of PCT’s and social services who do not recognise it in relation to commissioning from local charitable providers. This must be addressed to safeguard the long-term development and provision of specialist palliative and neurological care in the voluntary sector.
The introduction of tariff based pricing across our services would also go some of the way to relieving the situation.