HC Deb 13 June 2003 vol 406 cc1125-7W
Bob Spink

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will issue guidance to clarify how children's hospices are eligible to apply for grants under the local council administered carer's special grant and the qualified projects programme; [117643]

(2) how many children's hospices have applied for (a) the carer's special grant and (b) the qualified projects programme administered by local councils; and if he will make a statement; [117644]

(3) how many children's hospices received no Government funding in the last year; and if he will list them; [117645]

(4) what advice and guidance his Department gives to primary care trusts on the levels of Government funding that should be made available to (a) adult and (b) children's hospices; [117646]

(5) how many beds were available in children's hospices in each of the last five years for which figures are available; [117647]

(6) what was the average percentage of public funds, excluding lottery funds, given towards total running costs for (a) all adult hospices, (b) all children's hospices and (c) Little Havens Children's Hospice in Castle Point in the latest year for which figures are available. [117648]

Ms Blears

Guidance on eligibility for accessing the quality protects (QP) programme funding has been issued and is available on the Department's website at http://www.doh.gov.uk/qualityprotects/workpro/project 6.htm. For the Carers Grant funding, guidance is available on the Government carers website www.carers.gov.uk which explains that 20 per cent. is available for children's services.

Disabled children are a priority area in the QP programme. From 2001–02 to 2003–04 £60 million for the children's services special grant has been earmarked for services for disabled children and their families, with £15 million in 2001–02 and 2002–03 and £30 million in 2003–04. One of the areas local authorities have been told that expenditure should be targeted on is increased provision of family support services including short term breaks.

Last year's QP management action plans show that authorities are beginning to improve the services they provide to disabled children. More family support services are being provided, particularly home based respite care and sitting services. Many are developing proposals in collaboration with partners from other agencies and sectors, such as the national health service and voluntary sector.

The Department of Health does not collect centrally information on children's hospice bed numbers nor do we monitor which service providers local authorities consider or use to provide short term breaks. Local councils may use other service providers than hospices (sitting services, residential homes) and they may fund opportunities for families with disabled children to go on holiday together.

The Department does not give advice and guidance to primary care trusts on the levels of Government funding that should be made available to adult and children's hospices. Primary care trusts have a pivotal role in assessing the extent of health care needs within their catchment area and funding service provision, including adult hospice and children's hospice services. The level of funding agreed is a matter for local discussion and decision.

A central budget of an additional £50 million per annum for adult specialist palliative care, including hospices, has been set up for the three years beginning 2003–04. This funding is specifically to meet the commitments and aims set out in the NHS Cancer Plan. The extra £50 million represents an increase of about 38 per cent. in the amount of NHS funding being put into adult specialist palliative care over 2000 levels and means that the pledge in the NHS Cancer Plan will be more than met. Allocation from this £50 million to local cancer networks will be made once network investment plans have been approved by the joint NHS/voluntary sector group, the National Partnership Group. The current NHS funding levels for adult hospices average 28 per cent. of running costs, although this varies across the country.

I understand the Association of Children's Hospices has estimated that the contribution made by the NHS to children's hospices varies significantly between hospices but averages about 5 per cent. Little Haven children's hospice receives about 3 per cent. of its funding from the NHS.

Children's hospices are a very distinct and emerging area of provision for children with life threatening illness. It is therefore important that hospices engage as much as possible with the NHS, in particular with primary care trusts which are responsible for commissioning services, including services for children with life threatening illnesses.

I appreciate there may be a need for some pump priming funding to demonstrate the range and quality of care that children's hospices can provide. I am therefore pleased that the New Opportunities Fund has provided £48 million in support of palliative care projects for children in England£from which I understand the Little Haven children's hospice has received £650,000.

The Fund is supporting existing good quality hospice services and will help to develop more. At the end of the three year New Opportunity Fund funding period we shall have in place a better strategic fit for services in support of children with life threatening illnesses, and one which will further inform service and funding considerations.