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Let me cut immediately to what the Government should now do, because we can and must do more. At the heart of the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South is the way in which the local
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NHS works together to put in place services that make a difference to children's lives. He says that those services must change, and I agree. I will shortly launch dedicated guidance for that purposework that will build on and realise the intentions expressed in the national service framework for children and young people, which is mandatory on the NHS. That guidance for commissioners of palliative care is in the final stages of development, and I will ensure that the comments made by hon. Members are brought to the attention of the officials who are drafting it, which will be beneficial. The guide will support health care organisations, local authorities and other partners, working together with them in children's trusts to understand and develop children's palliative care services and to apply the mandatory children's national service framework in its delivery.
Mr. Flello: It would be beneficial for the Under-Secretary to see a children's hospice for himself. I invite him to Treetops to see the work that is done there so that, when he reads the paperwork that his civil servants prepare for him, he knows exactly what that means in practice.
The guidance will set out a service model, describe the elements that should be present in the services that are commissioned and give practical examples of approaches to providing children and young people with the services. It will detail the role that we expect commissioners to play in ensuring that they commission the right services in the right place at the right time.
As my hon. Friend pointed out, the local NHS receives record funding. There is no ceiling on the money that it can give to children's hospices, but the funding must be co-ordinated. Hospices must not be trapped in a paper chase or, worse, at the end of a telephone, with no reply. The NHS and the local children's hospice sector have asked for guidance on important matters, and I am pleased that we can assist them through the publication of the guide. On publication, I shall ensure that copies are placed in the Library.
The second step that we must take is ensuring that specialist commissioning is much sharper. My noble Friend Lord Warner made a ministerial statement on Wednesday 19 October announcing a review of NHS specialist services. A new taskforce will be headed by Scotland's former chief medical officer to investigate how the NHS currently commissions specialist services and consider ways in which to tighten those commissioning arrangements so that there is much greater consistency throughout the NHS. I undertake to ensure that the review is alerted to the specific needs of children's hospices.
I want briefly to consider resources. My hon. Friend spoke passionately about the need to extend to children our manifesto commitment to provide funding for end-
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of-life care for adults. With the agreement of my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health, the Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), I confirm that we will extend the pledge to care for children and young people with life-threatening conditions. I will make further announcements to the House as soon as possible.
The outcome of the Department's White Paper "Your health, your care, your say" will be taken into account as we discharge our commitment. Ministers have held meetings with the national cancer director and officials to discuss how best to effect the commitment. Ministers have also met key voluntary sector organisations and the all-party group on hospice and palliative care.
I pay tribute to the many Members of Parliament who have worked so hard for so long on behalf of hospices and palliative care services. Hospices make an invaluable contribution to the mix of services that children and young people who have life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses need. As well as providing financial resources to the NHS, we give guidance to the commissioners of services and to hospices through the Association of Children's Hospices toolkit.
I am delighted that the Association of Children's Hospices, which is the umbrella organisation for voluntary children's hospices, has today agreed to undertake a joint launch with the Department of Health on 29 November of the toolkit on how children's hospices work and the Department's new guidance on commissioning. It will be hosted by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Kerry McCarthy), and I shall ensure that hon. Members are alerted because several regional events to bring local hospices together will take place after the launch.
Mr. Byrne: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I had the pleasure of debating with him before the general election. He distinguished himself in that debate, and he is already distinguishing himself in the House.
In conclusion, I firmly believe that children and their families will be best served by a strong partnership between the national health service and voluntary sector organisations. That partnership has thrived and grown stronger over the past few years, and it will be very important as we set about putting record extra resources into the national health service, taking its total funding to about £92 billion, and creating a national health service that reaches the parts of communities that we have not yet been able to reach. We look forward to a continued good working partnership with the children's hospice movement, and, with the support of hon. Members, I believe that we will achieve that.