Help the Hospices issues warning over end of life care funding

Elderly hands

Government funding for end of life care services is not getting through to the front line because primary care trusts are not able to identify it, Help the Hospices has warned.

A poll of member hospices has found most PCTs in their areas are unable to identify additional funding for end of life care for this year provided by the Department of Health. The DH announced an extra £88m for PCTs in their 2009-10 budgets in the end of life care strategy – published a year ago – which will be followed by £198m in 2010-1.

Most cannot identify funding

Help the Hospices polled 30 of its member hospices, covering 28 PCT areas. Hospices said 23 of the relevant PCTs were unable to identify additional resources for end of life care for 2009-10, three could identify funding and two denied that there was additional funding.

The resources are designed to expand provision, including rapid response community services for adults approaching the end of their lives, and improve training for all health and social care staff who come into contact with people who are dying.

Jonathan Ellis, director of public policy and parliamentary affairs at Help the Hospices, said: “If they are unable to identify funding the likelihood of them developing services of the specifications required seems small. That’s why it’s such a concern.”

Future spending cuts

Ellis said that it was vital that the £286m funding package from 2009-11 was used effectively, given the significant cuts to public expenditure due from 2011 onwards.

Though end of life care is mentioned in the NHS operating framework for 2009-10, through which the DH sets out priorities for services, it is not one of the key national objectives PCTs are performance managed on.

A spokesperson for sector umbrella body the National Council for Palliative Care, which is supporting the delivery of the strategy, said its first year had been “very positive”, with “increased activity in end of life care planning in PCTs”.

PCTs ‘must be closely monitored

However, she said it was “important that the money given to PCTs to support the strategy is closely monitored to ensure it is used effectively”, particularly given the uncertainty over future public funding.

A DH spokesperson said: “We are committed to seeing new investment in end of life care.”  He said PCTs had been told to monitor new money for end of life care and include it in investment plans submitted to strategic health authorities, which performance manage trusts.

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