CUTS in Government cash are forcing hospices to struggle with mounting debts, says a report .
More than one in four (28%) are now in deficit, says an analysis of the 2004/06 accounts for 86 of the UK’s 194 charitable hospices.
The amount hospices receive also varies hugely, from nothing to 62% of their spending, the report added.
The study, by the charity Help the Hospices, showed that the amount of Government cash hospices receive as a proportion of their spend has been falling for three years.
In England it now stands at 32% of expenditure in adult hospices, having fallen from 34% in 2004 and 33% in 2005.
The cash is distributed by primary care trusts, who decide how money should be spent locally.
In Huddersfield, Kirkwood Hospice at Dalton gets a fifth of its cash from the Government, via the primary care trust.
It costs £3.4m to run the hospice each year, leaving its fundraising department to raise £2.7m.
Fundraising manager Gary Wilkinson said: “It is a huge amount to raise each year but we get fantastic support from people in the Huddersfield area.
“The money we receive from the Government has remained the same for the past few years, even though costs are going up all the time. A lot of hospices do struggle as costs rise and they need to ask the public for more.”
Help the Hospices said the Government was failing to meet its 2005 general election manifesto commitment to double the investment for palliative care services.
A study published last year by the National Council for Palliative Care found that 60% of hospices it studied actually had a cash cut in real terms.
David Praill, chief executive of Help the Hospices, said: “We are asking the Government to deliver Labour’s election manifesto commitment to doubling the amount given for palliative care as a matter of urgency.
“Charitable hospices provide the majority of in-patient palliative care services, as well as a range of day care, hospice at home, bereavement support services and training for doctors and nurses.
“We are not asking for 100% funding, but we do need the Government to cover the cost of services that the NHS would otherwise have to provide.
“The donations we get from charity fundraising activities in local communities are already badly needed and cannot be stretched to cover core NHS responsibilities indefinitely as well.
“The situation will only worsen with an ageing population and more and more of us living longer with terminal illness.
“This issue has to be addressed now.”
Most hospices are run by charities and offer services such as control of pain and symptoms, nursing care and emotional and practical support.
In all, they provide 79% of adult in-patient palliative care beds in the UK, as well as day services and care in people’s homes.
Today’s report revealed that UK independent charitable hospices spend £1.2m a day, of which £360,000 comes from Government sources.
An average of 4.5% of funding for children’s hospices comes from the Government, with variations meaning some receive 27% of expenditure and others get nothing, it added.
Help the Hospices now wants a guarantee that PCTs will offer hospices funding contracts lasting at least three years.
Mr Praill said: “Many of our hospices are struggling because they cannot get PCTs to provide the long-term contracts needed to enable planning or to pay for the services they require within a reasonable time period.”