§ 26. Sir David Price
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made by the national health service in the practice of palliative medicine, including hospice provisions, since 1987; what plans he has for the future of palliative medicine in the national health service; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
As in all fields of medicine, changes in palliative medicine are continually being made. Its recognition as a specialty in its own right is an indication that the medical profession itself acknowledges the progress which has been made.
This country has a reputation as a world leader in the fields of palliative medicine and hospice care. The Government fully recognise the importance of the voluntary hospice movement in providing care and support for terminally ill people and their families. Our commitment has been underlined in the past two years by the allocation of £25 million to health authorities specifically to enable them to increase the support they give to hospices and similar organisations. This year the estimated total national health service contribution to voluntary hospices, including central funding, amounts to 144W £41 million. The number of voluntary hospices has more than doubled in the past 10 years; there are now well over 100 in-patient units providing over 1,900 beds, and over 150 day units offering some 1,500 places.
We welcome the growing partnership between the national health service and the voluntary hospice movement. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has asked the standing medical and standing nursing and midwifery advisory committees to review the organisation of palliative care services and the measurement of their performance. The review is expected to be completed in the first half of this year.