Charities Hospice UK, Together for Short Lives and Marie Curie are warning that a pay rise for NHS staff could have a damaging impact on charitable hospices in England and put vital services at risk unless they receive financial help to meet extra costs for hospice staff.
The charities all welcome the pay boost for non-medical NHS staff, but called on the Government to provide support for hospices to reduce the impact of the award on hospice recruitment and retention.
Hospice UK estimates that changes resulting from the NHS pay deal mean that its 200 member hospices will have to spend an extra £100million over the next three years – equivalent to 2% of the funding that the Government has put aside to fund the increase for staff working in the NHS.
The Government recently outlined in a Written Ministerial Statement how it intends to address the impact of the pay award on non-NHS providers, including hospices.
The Government will allow non-NHS providers – that are providing NHS services and that employ staff on an Agenda for Change contract – to access part of the £800 million that is being made available to the NHS this year for staff pay. Only those organisations that match Agenda for Change terms and conditions will be able to access the extra funding.
Most hospices use Agenda for Change terms and conditions as a guide to their local pay policies for clinical staff – rather than matching the terms and conditions exactly – so it looks likely that the majority of hospices will not be able to access this funding.
Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK, said:
“While we strongly support the pay award for hardworking NHS staff, we are very concerned about the wider impact of this on charitable hospices in England.
“This decision by the Government to restrict funding for non-NHS providers to only those organisations that follow Agenda for Change terms and conditions to the letter is very worrying and will have a very damaging impact on charitable hospices.
“Most hospices use NHS terms and conditions as guidance for their local pay policies rather than matching their terms and policies exactly. To recruit and retain staff, hospices will have little choice other than following the pay rises for the NHS, so many hospices will be left severely out of pocket.
“Charitable hospices are already facing huge financial pressures and operating in a tough fundraising climate, so this will put their stretched resources under even greater strain.
“In addition, hospices are currently facing major workforce challenges, especially in recruiting and retaining staff with the specialist skills for supporting people with terminal and life-limiting conditions. If no allowance is made for hospices they may be forced to cut vital services.
“We urge the Government to take action to mitigate the impact of the NHS pay award on charitable hospices in England.
“Hospice UK will continue to push for more support for charitable hospices and we remain open to further discussions with the Government to find a way forward.”
Andrew Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives said:
“Hospices and palliative care charities are already facing huge financial pressures; they are operating in a tough fundraising climate and receive patchy and unsustainable statutory funding. This will put their stretched resources under even greater strain.
“These vital services already face major workforce challenges, especially in recruiting and retaining staff with the specialist skills for supporting people with terminal and life-limiting conditions. This development will exacerbate these difficulties and could have a negative impact on patient care.
“If no allowance is made for hospices and palliative care charities, these lifeline services could face difficult decisions about cutting vital services that families rely on. We ask ministers to consider this as a matter of urgency.”
Simon Jones, Director of Policy at Public Affairs at Marie Curie, which has nine hospices across the UK added:
“While Marie Curie welcomes the proposal to support end of life care charities who employ staff on Agenda for Change contractual terms, we remain concerned that this will not address the full extent of the challenges faced by ourselves and the wider sector in recruiting and retaining the high quality staff we need to provide a first class service for people at the end of their lives.”