§ 2. Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con)
What assessment he has made of the contribution that children's hospices make to palliative care.␣
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr. Stephen Ladyman)
Children's hospices make a very important contribution to the support of children with life-threatening illnesses and their families, and in providing emergency, respite and end-of-life care.
I am sure that the movement will be pleased to hear the Under-Secretary's endorsement in advance of next week's children's hospice week. However, does he share my concern about the much lower amount of funding that children's hospices receive from statutory sources, as compared with adult hospices? Does he understand that a hospice such as Acorns children's hospice, which will open in Worcester next year and serve a large geographical area—most of the south-west midlands and Gloucestershire—has to look for funding packages from up to 33 different primary care trusts? Has the time not come to consider again the quantum and management of funding for children's hospices?
First, the hon. Gentleman mentioned the children's national service framework, which we intend to publish tomorrow, not next week.
§ Dr. Ladyman
My apologies—I thought that the hon. Gentleman referred to the children's NSF.
Acorns Children's Hospice Trust is currently in discussion with the local primary care trust, which is being supportive. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be happily surprised by the outcome of the discussions. He made a point about a general uplift in funding. He must realise that children's hospices provide one of a range of services of which children with palliative care needs may make use, which include home care and hospital care. We could set a blanket figure for the proportion of funding that comes from the national health service only in one of two ways: either by unbalancing the mix of care, which would mean that some children who currently receive home care would no longer receive it, or by providing more money. The hon. Gentleman's commitment to 40 per cent. funding for hospices might make an interesting press release, but he does not intend to provide that extra money for the health service.
§ Mr. Michael Foster (Worcester) (Lab)
Further to the comments of the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) about the Acorns trust in Worcester, and given that it serves the three counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, will my hon. Friend write to the range of primary care trusts and local authorities in those counties to ensure that they do what they can to provide a more secure statutory funding basis for it, thereby making sure that it is there for children who will need it in future?
§ Dr. Ladyman
I am happy to ensure that the primary care trusts in those areas realise what their responsibilities are—I shall certainly do that for my hon. Friend. However, I assure him that they do understand those responsibilities. They are in active negotiation with the Acorns trust, have a close relationship with it as regards its two existing hospices, and are in discussion, which I hope will prove fruitful, about the one that is proposed for the near future.
§ Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab)
My hon. Friend makes a reasoned case, but he should examine the 1108 inconsistency between the funding for adult hospices and that for children's hospices. The poor relationship between the two in getting direct funding is the important issue. Derian house gets so little funding. We get some from the local primary care trust, and although children come from as far away as Scotland and London, the funding must be raised locally. We should ensure that we get equal match funding as between adult and children's hospices directly from the NHS. The sooner that happens, the better. It will ensure that the required service continues.
§ Dr. Ladyman
While I share my hon. Friend's desire to see the children's hospice movement succeed, I cannot agree with the solution that he proposes. That is because children's palliative care is a very different proposition from adult palliative care. Adult palliative care tends to involve end-of-life provision, whereas children's palliative care tends to involve long-term provision, respite or emergency care, and managing chronic conditions. It is therefore important that primary care trusts ensure that there is proper balanced provision and full availability of home care in their area. It might not be appropriate to have the same level of funding for an adult hospice as for a children's hospice in any particular area, so I cannot agree with my hon. Friend's solution to the problem.