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The future of Acorns Children’s Hospice in Walsall

News and comment

Today (4 June 2019) Acorns has begun a consultation with its staff on a proposal to cease offering services from its children’s hospice facility in Walsall. Acorns currently has three hospices in Walsall, Birmingham and Worcester.

If the proposal is confirmed, all children and families currently receiving their care from the Walsall Hospice will be invited to access the services at one of Acorns’ other two children’s hospices, located in Birmingham and Worcester. Acorns priority will be to ensure these families are able to continue to receive the high standards of care from Acorns via the Birmingham and Worcester hospices and family support and outreach services.

Together for Short Lives acknowledges that there are a range of reasons why Acorns has been forced to make this difficult proposal. Children’s hospices across the country are operating in an unsecure economic environment. The cost of delivering specialist lifeline support to seriously ill children, many of whom require increasingly complex care is rising. However, the contribution from the state in England through statutory funding is not keeping pace with these rising costs.

Children’s hospices in England face the additional strain of not knowing whether the Children’s Hospice Grant that they rely on to deliver vital care to children and families will continue beyond 2020. This grant is crucial to the future of children’s hospices in England. It means hospices are even more reliant on charitable donations to keep going, but income from charitable sources, shops and other fundraising activities is turbulent and hard to predict – they are all operating in a challenging economic climate and living with increased uncertainty.

Together for Short Lives’ CEO Andy Fletcher has been working closely with the Acorns’ team and Board over the last few months.

Today is clearly a very difficult day for Acorns the staff and volunteers and for the many families supported at their Walsall hospice. I have seen first-hand the outstanding care Acorns deliver to children, young people and families across the West Midlands. But like many children’s hospice services they face the challenge of rising costs, changing demand for their services, uncertain state funding and a very difficult fundraising environment.

Together for Short Lives’ CEO Andy Fletcher

Andy Fletcher continued: 

“Any decision to reduce services, staffing and or to propose closing hospice doors is a very difficult one and I know it has been made after very careful consideration and with a heavy heart. Acorns is sadly not the first and is unlikely to be the last hospice to propose reducing its services.”

“It is a far from easy decision for any service to take, but it’s one that’s taken in the best interests of Acorns and the families it serves, with an ambition to ensure families continue to get the lifeline care they need across the region now and in the future.”

“Our continued priority is to support children’s hospices across the UK and make sure that seriously ill children and their families are able to access sustainable lifeline hospice care locally. These vital services for some of the most vulnerable children in our society need reliable and long-term statutory funding to make them sustainable. Yet funding from health and social care commissioners is not keeping pace with demand. Despite positive commitments in the NHS Long Term Plan, ministers and officials have stopped short of protecting existing grant funding for children’s hospices.”

“That is why I call on the government to act now by honouring the commitment NHS England made on 27 December 2018 to protect the Children’s Hospice Grant and to increase children’s hospice funding by £7 million per year. I also ask them to bring about parity of funding between children’s and adult hospices – and develop a funded strategy which makes sure that 24/7 children’s palliative care support can be accessed by seriously ill children and families when and where they need it. If ministers fail to meet the challenge, more children’s hospices and palliative care charities will be forced to cut care, piling more pressure on to our already overstretched NHS.”

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