Hospice welcomes ‘positive’ commitment on funding from Executive

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Northern Ireland Hospice has welcomed the restored Executive’s commitment to increased funding for palliative services.

And the charity, which has its head office in Newtownabbey, plans to met new Health Minister Robin Swann to agree the sums involved.

Commenting on the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement, a Northern Ireland Hospice spokesperson said: “We are encouraged that this deal has cross party support – especially as it states a commitment to increased investment for palliative and end of life care, as well as enhancing the vital contribution of hospices. We are also pleased to see the inclusion of additional support for palliative perinatal care.

“The Prime Minister announced last year that £25 million would be invested to support hospices in England – this followed a similar investment in children’s hospices, also for England. In addition, hospices in Scotland and Wales received additional support through their devolved governments. Northern Ireland was not included in any of these funding arrangements.

“We know that there are increasing pressures on the health service and we’re proud of the fact that we relieve some of this burden by delivering specialist palliative care on behalf of the Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland. We have however been consistent in highlighting the urgent need for a more equitable funding package from Government for these services and an increase in statutory funding to 50% of the cost of both adults and children’s hospice care.

“We care for over 4,000 babies, children and adults every year across Northern Ireland. Government funds approximately 30% of our costs.

“We consider the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal to be a very positive step forward and are looking forward to engaging with our new minister of health at his earliest opportunity, to understand and agree the detail of the proposed investment and support.”

Meanwhile, Mid & East Antrim Council is also pushing for a meeting with Mr Swann to discuss the funding.

Cllr Andrew Wilson said: “I am heartened to learn that as part of the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal, the Executive will provide increased investment to fully implement service improvements for palliative and end of life care, including enhancing the contribution for hospices and palliative perinatal care. These were key asks from my notice of motion which was unanimously endorsed by the chamber in 2019.”

The Knockagh representative’s proposal that council seek a meeting with the minister was seconded by Larne Lough Cllr Keith Turner.

Mr Wilson said: “The meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the funding for hospices and I have asked that the NI Hospice be invited. There will also be an opportunity to discuss other health priorities including mental health.”