Parliament has heard how hospices serving East Devon, Sidmouth and Exeter receive less government healthcare cash compared to other parts of the UK.
MP Simon Jupp is calling on NHS Devon to provide more funding for hospice care providers, writes local democracy reporter Will Goddard.
The Conservative MP for East Devon recently secured a parliamentary debate in which he highlighted local charities Hospiscare and Sidmouth Hospice at Home, although it was sparsely attended and there was little opposition.
As an integrated care board (ICB), NHS Devon is responsible for determining funding for end-of-life and palliative care in the local area.
It currently covers 18 per cent of Hospiscare’s costs compared to a national average of 37 per cent from ICBs in England. Sidmouth Hospice at Home receives no NHS funding at all.
But because of its financial deficit, NHS Devon is currently in special measures, and is forecasting another budget shortfall of more than £40 million this year.
Mr Jupp said in Parliament: “Hospiscare in Devon has told me that it is facing a £2.5 million deficit in the next financial year.
“Meanwhile, Sidmouth Hospice at Home has told me that its average case load has risen by over 50 per cent in the last year alone.
“Amid this perfect storm, I have been calling on the NHS Devon ICB to increase its funding for all of our hospices.
“Our message is crystal clear: there needs to be a fairer deal.”
Hospiscare CEO Andrew Randall said: “Hospiscare has had open and frank discussions over 18 months with the Devon ICB about increasing our funding in line with the national average but to date they have no plan to do so and our services are now at risk.
“Despite looking after thousands of patients over more than 1,000 square miles, Hospiscare receives one of the lowest percentages of government funding in the country.
“Unless the Devon ICB increases our funding in line with other hospice providers, we’ll be forced to reduce our services from April.
“Our local community is incredible and already helps to fund over 80 per cent of our running costs through charitable donations.
Sidmouth Hospice at Home CEO Alasdair Cameron said: “We are very grateful to Simon for addressing the rank inequalities in the provision of central funding from NHS Devon.
“The stark dichotomy between the funding levels in Devon and the rest of the country are a critical threat to the provision of specialist palliative care in East Devon.
“The response from the government was encouraging and we hope that this will be a catalyst for us here at Sidmouth Hospice at Home to obtain funding to support our specialist service, as we currently receive zero funding and rely entirely on the generosity of our incredible community.”
A spokesperson for NHS Devon said: “We recognise the high-level of care hospice teams across the county provide to patients and their families at a hugely emotional time in their lives.
“Each year, we provide financial support to the four adult hospices in Devon that operate inpatient beds through grant funding. Our funding position for hospices in Devon has not changed – we have not reduced the amount of money they receive.
“Like all charities in Devon, hospices are independent organisations and their funding models vary depending on local circumstances.
“The NHS in Devon faces severe financial challenges – this year, for the second year running, we are forecasting a deficit of more than £40 million – and we are having to take difficult decisions on spending.
“We are keen to keep working closely with Hospiscare on funding issues.”