Torbay’s MP, Kevin Foster, today (Thursday 29th November 2023) led a debate on Hospice Care in South Devon, during which he called for a consistent approach to funding hospice services and highlighted the visionary plan for the future of the Rowcroft site.
In his speech, Kevin highlighted the various challenges for hospices, particularly those in South Devon. Like other public services, business and community organisations, hospices have faced increased costs. A UK Hospice Survey in March 2023 revealed 96% of hospices were budgeting for a deficit.
During the debate Kevin outlined the cost pressures Rowcroft Hospice are facing, including a 30% increase in total staff costs and 52% on utilities. Yet NHS funding for Rowcroft has only increased 8% in 5 yrs. There is significant regional variation in the percentage of support through statutory funding: in London there is an average of 43% statutory funding, whereas it is just 24% in the South West. This is the lowest overall percentage rate, which the South West shares with South Central and Wales.
Alongside these pressures, demand for hospice care is growing. According to a major study back in 2017, published by BMC Medicine, if age and sex specific proportions with palliative care remain the same as in 2014 the number of people requiring palliative care would grow by 25%, from 375,398 to just over 469,000 by 2040. Yet if the upward trend observed between 2006 and 2014 continued, it would increase by 41.2%, with conditions such as dementia and cancer being the biggest drivers of this. In South Devon these estimates would see demand grow from 2500 per year currently to over 3,500 by 2040.
Kevin raised with the minister the need for a more consistent and sustainable approach towards funding. Whilst Kevin is not advocating for a fully publicly funded service, as the charitable model provides key advantages, he recognises there is a need for a more uniform approach to government funding to offer providers more predictability in terms of planning for the future.
Finally, he invited the Minster to come and see for herself plans for the visionary “Ella’s Gardens” project at Rowcroft. The plan is a truly transformative vision for what high quality palliative, nursing and residential care should look like in the middle of this century. At the centre of it is the construction of a new Inpatient Unit (IPU) and remodelling of the existing hospice building to provide the very best specialist palliative care for generations to come.
Kevin Foster MP said: “For families across South Devon, Rowcroft Hospice is a service which is not just valued but treasured. It is a place where memories can be made, conversations had which bring peace to a dispute which now seems petty, family events or news shared and where a smile may be raised, even as the end nears. In short, our hospice is a place where life is added to days, when days can no longer be added to life. We need to ensure Rowcroft can continue to do so for decades to come.”