HOSPISCARE, the local hospice charity for Exeter, central and east Devon, has been forced to scale back its services due to a £2.5 million funding deficit.

The scale back has come into effect this month, April 2024, and includes cutting bed numbers from 12 to eight and reducing the weekend community nursing service. 

In November 2023, the hospice reported that it would have to cut its services unless its statutory funding was brought in line with the average level of national hospice funding. 

Hospiscare is an independent local charity and it costs close to £10 million each year for the hospice to provide its services — 82 per cent of which the hospice raises itself with the help of local people. 

Despite serving a large population and supporting more patients with complex clinical needs, Hospiscare has been receiving only 18 per cent of its annual funding from the Devon Integrated Care Board (ICB) — the statutory body responsible for allocating government funding within the county. This is in comparison to the national average of 37 per cent. 

Andrew Randall, CEO of Hospiscare, said: “We have raised the issue of inequitable funding with Devon ICB on countless occasions and there is no satisfactory answer as to why Hospiscare only receives 18 per cent of funding, whereas other hospices elsewhere receive up to double this. 

“It costs our hospice £10m a year to provide our services caring for people with terminal illnesses. The government funds a very small proportion of this, and it’s thanks to the remarkable generosity of local people, who support us through fundraising and legacies, that we are able to continue our vital work. 

“But inflation and the cost-of-living crisis means we can no longer rely on local fundraising. We desperately need Devon ICB to increase our funding in line with other hospices to ensure we can be here in the future for the thousands of Devonians and their families we support every year.” 

In response to its recent "fair funding" campaign, Hospiscare has finally been awarded a single funding injection of £480,000 from Devon ICB.

While the payment is welcomed by the hospice, it still leaves a huge deficit and is not enough to stave off service cuts. 

Andrew Randall said: “This funding boost from Devon ICB increases our funding for this coming year from 18 per cent to 24 per cent. While a step in the right direction, this is still far removed from the national average for hospice funding of 37 per cent. 

“Devon ICB has a statutory requirement to provide palliative care for the people in our region. We understand that Devon ICB and the healthcare sector as a whole are stretched, but we know that with equitable statutory funding in place, we would take more pressure off our local NHS colleagues. Hospice service cuts inevitably means more people being admitted to hospitals. 

“We’re in no way asking the ICB to fund us entirely — we’ll continue to fundraise the vast majority of our costs ourselves — all we’re asking for is fair treatment.” 

For more than 40 years, Hospiscare has provided specialist end-of-life care for people across 1,028 square miles of Devon, including Exeter, Mid Devon, East Devon and North Dartmoor. Every year they support around 2,200 patients living with terminal illnesses. 

Ann Rhys, Clinical Director at Hospiscare, said: “Making cuts to our services is the opposite of what we want to do but we now have no other option. Despite best efforts to close our funding gap, sadly we now have to make service cuts in order to secure the hospice’s long-term future.” 

Andrew Randall vows that Hospiscare will continue campaigning to have its funding brought in line with the national average. He said: “I’d like to thank everyone who makes a regular donation to Hospiscare, plays our lottery, donates to or purchases from our charity shops, takes part in an event for us or otherwise supports our charity. Please, if you are able to give a regular monthly donation or support the hospice in any way, I encourage you to do so. Your support has never been more vital.” 

For more information about the issues mentioned here, or to find out how to support the hospice, visit: www.hospiscare.co.uk .