I was pleased to welcome Health Minister, Ben Gummer, to St Julia’s Hospice this week.
Attention has focused on palliative and hospice care following the Assisted Dying Bill, that came before MPs last September. MPs left the debate determined to work hard to ensure that the best end-of-life care would be available to our constituents. Here in Cornwall we have grown used to the excellent work of St Julia’s and Mount Edgcumbe Hospices. Cornwall Hospice Care, which brought together the two hospices ten years ago, continues to enjoy the support and affection of Cornish people.
Many of us have witnessed the care that is given to our loved ones and nearly 90% of the funds Cornwall Hospice Care requires comes from voluntary giving, which is a fantastic testament to the Cornish people. However, I believe the level of NHS funding supporting the hospices should rise.
As we move (albeit slowly) towards the integration of health and social care the hospices have a part to play to reduce pressure on acute services. Good things are happening in this regard. In January a pilot scheme was launched to provide extra hospice beds for patients needing end of life care. NHS Kernow is funding additional beds and associated medical, nursing and operational costs for patients who can be discharged from RCHT and Peninsula Health Hospitals but require specialist inpatient care and support due to their prognosis and needs for life-limiting conditions.
Another welcome initiative was Healthwatch Cornwall’s Palliative Care Conference on January 29th.
Health managers, GPs, carers, charities and MPs considered what palliative care should look like in Cornwall and on the Isles of Scilly. The visit of the Health Minister this week comes at a crucial time as we develop an End-of-Life Charter for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly which will determine care of people with time-limiting conditions. Extra NHS funding along with the continued generosity of the general public will allow more people to experience the fantastic love and support the hospice staff are renowned for and will reduce demand on acute services.