HL Deb 26 October 1989 vol 511 cc1549-50

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will consider giving financial support to hospices in England and Wales and Northern Ireland similar to the proposals recently announced by the Scottish Office for hospices in Scotland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hooper)

My Lords, arrangements for financial support for independent hospices have been under careful consideration for some time, and it is hoped to bring forward plans in due course. Arrangements for hospices in Wales and Northern Ireland are also being considered and it is hoped to deal with these at the same time as those for England.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer, which gives a distant ray of hope on a rather distant horizon. Is she aware that there is an increasing demand for hospice type care not only for people within the hospices themselves but extending into domiciliary care for the terminally ill in their own homes? This often leads to very real financial problems both for the terminally ill themselves and for their families. Can my noble friend indicate whether the Government have any plans to help alleviate the financial problems of the terminally ill in hospices or at home and to ensure that they have a genuine choice of the kind of care they most want in their last illness?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, yes, this is indeed an important development of hospice care. I understand that some hospices provide home and day care and bereavement services. Some act as centres for the training of volunteers and professionals. Most can certainly draw on volunteer helpers. Within the National Health Service provision there are more than 140 home care teams working alongside front line staff. Some of the concerns in this area may be met by the announcement made yesterday by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Security which confirmed that we intend to abolish the six months' qualifying period for attendance allowance for terminally ill people.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, is the Minister aware how much we welcome this Scottish initiative, which is a fair tribute to the remarkable service provided by the hospice movement? Does she accept that some hospices receive no NHS or government funding at all? Does she further accept that this is an urgent issue? Will she raise it with her right honourable friend in order that a decision can be taken soon?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I accept that funding through local health authorities varies throughout the country. In some cases it is very little and in other cases it is considerably more than 50 per cent. Nevertheless, the Government accept in principle the desirability of achieving a more balanced, stable and equitable pattern of financial support for independent hospices. However, the detailed application of the principle is complicated and that is why we are still working on it. I shall of course look at the matter.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, can my noble friend assure me that any plans she makes for this admirable movement will provide funds in addition to, and not in place of, the money already available from private donors?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, my noble and learned friend may be sure that we shall try to achieve the best possible results.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I welcome the abolition of the six months' rule for attendance allowance. Can my noble friend say whether this will be retrospective? It would have been helpful to my family if it had been done a year ago.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I think the answer to my noble friend must be no.

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