Sleaford and North Hykeham’s MP has succeeded in her campaign to get more funding for hospice care for children with cancer.
In her role as chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children Who Need Palliative Care, supported by the charity Together for Short Lives, Dr Caroline Johnson has been campaigning for more funding for children’s hospices. She called a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, after raising the issue on numerous occasions with the Minister for Care and with the Prime Minister. During the response to Caroline’s speech, the minister announced more funding from NHS England and reviews of how it is disbursed.
The APPG carried out an inquiry in 2017/18 to find out the extent to which the government’s end of life care choice commitment was being met, and found ministers were at serious risk of failing to meet this commitment. The quality of palliative care that children and families can access is dependent on where in England they live.
The majority of children’s palliative care is funded by organisations spanning the voluntary sector, the NHS and local government. These organisations make a crucial contribution; children’s hospice charities in England, such as the St Andrew’s Children’s Hospice in Lincolnshire, provided active clinical support to over 8,000 babies, children and young people in 2018/19. Only 21 per cent of their funding is provided by statutory sources, with the rest coming from charitable donations and volunteer support.
NHS England has now announced an additional £13 million going into children’s hospices; from £12 million today to £25 million a year by 2023/24. They will also run a needs assessment to understand where additional investment is required, and review the funding formula to ensure that care is properly funded everywhere in the country.
Commenting afterwards, Dr Johnson said: “As an NHS consultant paediatrician, children’s palliative care is an issue very close to my heart, and I have cared for a large number of children with life-limiting illnesses. I have been the person who delivered the bad news, and I have been there through the families’ journeys and in those final moments. For me, being a politician offers me the opportunity to provide a voice for these children and improve the care and treatment that they and their families receive.
“Provision of care, including respite breaks, can be patchy across the country, and some families struggle to get the support they need at an already difficult time. I have been pushing for increased funding for children’s hospices so that more children can get the care they need and deserve, and I am delighted with NHS England’s announcement of more funding, and reviews of both provision and the funding formula.”