Hospice charities considering service cuts after ‘worst ever’ £77m deficit estimated

16 Apr 2024 News

Robert Kneschke / Adobe Stock

Hospice charities in the UK have recorded an estimated £77m deficit, their “worst ever” financial year, according to a sector membership body.

This week, Hospice UK reported that its members faced a collective estimated deficit of £77m in the financial year 2023-24.

Based on its quarterly financial benchmarking survey, Hospice UK’s new figure compares to a £186m budgeted deficit for the year, with results in 2023-24 not as bad as hospices feared.

A spokesperson for Hospice UK said the main reason for the better than expected financial performance was hospices not being able to fill all their vacancies, which “is bringing its own challenges for patient care”.

The spokesperson said some hospices may have also seen higher than expected income, possibly due to receiving large legacies.

Nevertheless, this is “still the worst ever year for hospice finances”, they said, with many hospice charities “facing tough decisions about services and where they can make cuts” and some potentially having “already taken steps to reduce services and bring their deficits down”.

‘Unsustainable and extremely worrying’

According to Hospice UK’s analysis for the year to March 2022, based on the accounts of 189 hospices, the sector’s income of over £1.5bn trailed its expenditure of £1.6bn that year.

Its estimates for 2023-24 were based on a survey of 86 hospices, with results extrapolated to be representative of the whole UK sector.

Commenting on the new figures, Hospice UK chief executive Toby Porter said: “These are the worst financial results for the hospice sector in around 20 years.

“Many hospices are spending more on their care than they receive in income. This is unsustainable and extremely worrying. 

“Costs for hospices will keep rising, and without a new model for funding end of life care, the coming years could be devastating for hospice care services, particularly for those in economically challenged areas.

“Many are already considering halting vital services which will have devastating consequences for patients, their families, hospice staff, local communities and the NHS itself. 

“With demand for end-of-life care in the UK guaranteed to grow due to our ageing population, we face an important choice as a society.

“Hospices are ready to meet this challenge, if only they are fully integrated and fairly funded as partners in our health and care system.   

“We understand that public finances are tight, but we’d encourage local health boards to work with hospices in their areas to meet the needs of dying patients and their families.”

Government: ‘We recognise the incredibly valuable role the charity sector plays’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “While the majority of palliative and end of life care is provided via GPs, hospitals, and community health services, we recognise the incredibly valuable role the charity sector plays in providing hospice care and supporting loved ones.

“Most hospices are independent, charitable organisations with their own terms and conditions of employment.

“The government has provided £60m in additional funding, including to some hospices, to deliver one-off payments to over 27,000 eligible staff employed by non-NHS organisations.”

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