Council chief calls for Government review into palliative care after St Clare's Hospice decision

South Tyneside Council’s leader has called on the Government to review the way palliative care is funded and provided, following a decision by NHS chiefs this week.

By Chris Binding
Friday, 25th September 2020, 3:30 pm
Cllr Iain Malcolm
Cllr Iain Malcolm

This includes increased resources for community care and a dedicated hospice-style facility at Haven Court, within the South Tyneside District Hospital site.

The changes aim to partly fill the gap left by Jarrow’s St Clare’s Hospice, which closed in early 2019 after collapsing into insolvency.

In a letter to Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, Cllr Iain Malcolm said palliative care should be a “core NHS function, paid for entirely through taxation.”

He added the council had “explored all options available” to reinstate a dedicated hospice service but it was found it would “not be financially possible” to fund a new facility.

The letter said palliative care services are often shouldered by the voluntary sector leading to a “postcode lottery” and some people spending their final days in clinical settings or far from their loved ones.

It also acknowledged that many people hoped the CCG could replace St Clare’s Hospice with like-for-like provision.

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Cllr Malcolm went on to say: “But following an extensive review, [the CCG’s] announcement has confirmed that, with all the will in the world, a dedicated hospice facility is not something the local health and care system can achieve, even with additional investment that has been put in by the CCG.

“There is great hurt, sorrow and anger in my local community that this is the case.

“There is understandable confusion and frustration that a service of such significance cannot be offered as part of the NHS.

“Why should it fall to the voluntary sector to fill this gap with charitable donations and fund raising? The NHS was, after all, designed with the intention that all people should be able to access the healthcare they need ‘from the cradle to the grave’.

“With the ongoing pandemic placing new pressures on the voluntary sector, it will be sadly not surprising if more hospices across the country are forced to close, placing more and more people in this horrible position.”

Cllr Malcolm urged the Government to “act now to rectify this untenable situation.”

He added the current Government review into social care offers a “clear and suitable opportunity” to look at the issue.

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