The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement missed a vital opportunity to ensure seriously ill children and their families can access the lifeline palliative care they need, says Together for Short Lives.
The statement includes some welcome news, including a Rare Diseases Launchpad, a government-supported pilot to generate evidence for new individualised therapeutics in the UK for children with ultra-rare diseases. The Chancellor also announced an 6.7% increase in working age benefits in Great Britain next year.
However, amid measures to cut national insurance and encourage more disabled adults into work, Jeremy Hunt announced very little which will give children and young people with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions access to high quality, sustainable palliative care.
Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives, said:
“I am disappointed that the government has chosen not to use the Autumn Statement to announce multi-year NHS funding for children’s palliative care in England to fill the annual £300 million gap. In the short term, it is essential that ministers and officials confirm how much of the previously announced £25 million grant each children’s hospice will receive in 2024/25 as a matter of urgency – in addition to how and when they will receive it.
“In the long-term, ministers should commit to maintaining ringfenced NHS England funding for children’s hospices beyond 2024/25 which increases by at least the rate of inflation each year.”
“The government should also fill the annual £573 million funding gap in social care for disabled children in England. This currently means that local authorities are not sustainably funding crucial services such as short breaks for respite for families of seriously ill children.”
In June, the government announced an additional £2.4 billion investment over the next five years to support the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. Andy Fletcher said:
“Investment is urgently needed to make sure there are enough professionals with the skills and experience to provide palliative care to the growing and increasingly complex population of seriously ill children. The government should increase funding for specialist paediatric palliative medicine training up to £2.26 million per year ear – and make sure that the additional 50,000 nurses that the government has committed in this parliament includes children’s nurses with palliative care skills and experience.”
The Autumn Statement also included no additional support to help families of disabled children meet the costs of their energy bills. Andy Fletcher said:
“As Winter arrives and families of seriously ill children again face the disproportionately high cost of powering life-saving equipment and warming their homes, the government should urgently explore social tariffs as a long-term solution. The Chancellor should also introduce rebate schemes for the cost of running vital medical devices.”
“Very sadly, many children who need palliative care now will not be alive when the Chancellor announces his Budget in the Spring. They do not have time to wait.”
I am disappointed that the government has chosen not to use the Autumn Statement to announce multi-year NHS funding for children’s palliative care in England to fill the annual £300 million gap. In the short term, it is essential that ministers and officials confirm how much of the previously announced £25 million grant each children’s hospice will receive in 2024/25 as a matter of urgency – in addition to how and when they will receive it.Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive, Together for Short Lives