The Government fully recognises and greatly appreciates the excellent work done by hospices in providing end-of-life care services and in supporting people with life threatening illnesses and their families.
Hospices are centres of excellence and the model of care that was first developed in the voluntary hospice movement is central to the delivery of good quality end-of-life care. We value our partnership role with the hospices.
The Government has delivered on the commitment in the 2000 NHS Cancer Plan to provide an extra £50 million per annum for specialist palliative care services for adults. Over half of this money went to the voluntary sector, mainly hospices. This money has now been made recurrent in the baseline allocations to primary care trusts ensuring it is available for specialist palliative care on a long-term basis.
In addition to this, last year we provided a £40 million capital fund, which adult hospices were able to bid for to improve their physical environments. The funding was made available as part of the Dignity in Care for Older People work, although it will benefit all adult patients using hospice facilities. 146 hospices, with 191 projects, have been allocated funding from the budget.
In recent years, the Government has moved away from running centrally funded programmes in favour of devolving funding to the front line. With funding devolved to local budgets, primary care trusts can make funding decisions and commission services based on the needs of their local population.
We do not centrally collate data on how much financial support voluntary hospices get from the NHS, although we do know this varies across the country. However, the level of funding a hospice receives is a matter for local negotiation between the local primary care trust and the hospice.
Through the Operating Framework 2007-08, we have asked primary care trusts, working with local authorities, to conduct a baseline review of local end of life care services to support the implementation of the Strategy. The baseline review will allow local commissioners to assess current services, identify gaps and obtain a much clearer view of local need, which will inform local commissioning activity.
The development of an End of Life Care Strategy for adults, this country's first, shows that the Government is committed to improving care at the end of life. The Strategy, due to be published in the summer, will address the needs of patients, carers and families and will consider, among other things, the role of, and funding for hospices. Both the End of Life Care Strategy and the NHS Next Stage Review will be key to raising the priority of end-of-life care locally.