The government has announced an independent review of children’s palliative care, at a time when many children’s hospices are strapped for cash. The review is headed up by Professor Sir Alan Craft (pictured), professor of child health at Newcastle University, and Sue Killen, a director general in the civil service.
Why has the government decided to launch an independent review of children’s palliative care?
The government has recognised there are inequities in the statutory funding for palliative care, both between services for adults and children and in different areas of the country. There is also a difference in the capacity of commisioners in this specialist area.
What do you hope the review will achieve?
We aim to take a wide view of the issues surrounding palliative care for children. We will look at areas of the country which have positive relationship with their local statutory funders and see what lessons can be learned.
Children’s hospices only receive about five per cent of their funding from statutory agencies. The Association of Children’s Hospices wants a split in funding responsibilities with statutory agencies paying for clinical services and hospices funding support services such as social activities. Will the review consider this idea?We will consider all suggestions and look at both existing models and new ideas. We will also be seeking examples of good practice from other countries. We are working with the Association of Children’s Hospices and the Association for children with life-threatening and terminal conditions and their parents, as well as a wide variety of stakeholders including children and parents.
Some children’s hospices are cutting services and some forced to close due to a crisis in funding brought about by lack of money from statutory agencies and lottery grants coming to an end. Will the review look at this situation and suggest how to address it?
We will be looking at short term issues as well as wider issues and we would like to see a long term and sustainable solution for the benefit of everyone.
Another problem is the lack of central guidance on the amount that children’s hospices should receive from the statutory sector so each has to negotiate a figure locally. Do you think national guidance would be helpful?
We would certainly be looking towards national principles but in keeping with current Department of Health policy it is likely that decisions will be made locally. However, local decisions can be helped by national guidance.