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Children's Hospices

Volume 447: debated on Monday 5 June 2006

I am pleased that we have been able to agree new funding for children’s hospices of £9 million per year for the next three years.

I would like to pay tribute to the work of the children’s hospice movement which provides a valuable palliative care service to children and young people with a life threatening or life limiting condition and their families.

Children’s palliative care focuses on enhancing the quality of the child’s life and support for the family. It includes management of distressing symptoms, which may be intermittent or progressive; provision of respite (short breaks); and skilled care throughout life, at end of life and at bereavement. Children are encouraged to live as normal lives as possible, for as long as possible, including education and leisure, but this depends on excellent symptom control. Their palliative care needs therefore to be provided in a variety of settings—home, school, hospital or hospice. Children’s hospices provide an excellent service to these families but they are only part of the range of services on offer.

There are currently 34 voluntary children’s hospices in England providing respite care (short breaks), outreach care or end of life care. They receive some funding from local PCTs but the majority of their funds traditionally come from voluntary donations to support their work. Many children’s hospices have also received funding from the New Opportunity Fund (now the Big Lottery) but this funding is coming to an end between March 2006 and July 2007.

The funding announced today is intended to enable the services funded by the Big Lottery grant to continue, pending the outcome of a review of children’s hospice services and their funding arrangements. Our White Paper “Our Health, Our Care, Our Say” sets out our aim to give patients more choice about where they receive their care and the choice to be treated at home towards the end of life. We also want to see that staff who work with people who are dying are properly trained to look after them and their carers. We also want to see improved support for carers. We will be working with the Association of Children’s Hospices to see how the children’s hospice movement can contribute to the delivery of our aims for disabled children, those with complex health needs, those needing palliative care and their families.