Herriot Hospice Homecare Chief Executive responds to parliamentary debate on assisted dying

You may be seeing lots about assisted dying in the news at the moment, including debate happening in parliament this afternoon (Monday April 29 2024) to consider changes to the law. Sitting alongside this is the ongoing discussion on government funding for hospices across the country, including ours. Our Chief Executive Tony Collins feels that the two are linked, and shares the below:

“At Herriot Hospice Homecare, we value choice – recognising and supporting each person as an individual with unique journeys, experiences and needs. We welcome this important topic being debated and receiving such widespread consideration. To meet those choices, hospice services need to be readily available and of the right standard. The consultation around potential changes to assisted dying legislation needs to be taking place alongside consultation and change to the funding of hospice care services, ensuring that all choice made within existing legislation can be met.

“We know that rising costs for hospices like ours – as well as increasing care needs of the communities we serve – means that we need to see urgent government financial action alongside any potential changes or consultation on assisted dying legislation.

“It isn’t right that vital end of life care and support relies so heavily on the generosity of our communities to continue providing the majority of our vital services. Across our independent charity and family of services, which also includes Just ‘B’ and Saint Michael’s Hospice, we receive 25% statutory funding from government. The role hospices like ours play in the wider health and social care system cannot be overstated, supporting stretched NHS services with specialist care and support for people at the end of their lives.

“A recent report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hospice and End of Life Care found that there have been drastic real terms cuts to the funding hospices receive from the government, which hasn’t kept pace with inflation. While we are working hard to maintain our current service provision, we also have a duty to plan care for the future and have recently launched an ambitious new strategy to care for 50% more people over the next three years, addressing the unmet need we are seeing locally.

“When Canada implemented medical assistance in dying in 2016, initial implementation costs were well into the millionsand there are continued significant costs being met year-on-year that enable this choice for the Canadian population. For choice to be real it needs to be met with adequate and sustainable funding. It’s the same for hospice care services here in the UK. The choice of high quality hospice care is currently available to most communities, but not all, thanks to the independent hospice sector. This choice is under threat unless we start to address the urgent and growing funding gap we are facing.

“Alongside committing to further debate on how our sector might support changes to assisted dying legislation, we need to see initial action on ensuring hospices are appropriately funded to continue providing vital services when they are most needed. Without this, we will struggle as demand for our services continues to grow.”

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