Devon's end-of-life carers are 'outstanding' - but there's one problem

Hospiscare has been rated 'outstanding' by the Care Quality Commission
-Credit: (Image: Hospiscare)

Vital Devon hospice charity Hospiscare is celebrating a bittersweet achievement of being rated 'outstanding' for the end-of-life care and support it offers at a time when a lack of funding has meant it has had to reduce its service. Hospiscare is facing a £2.5 million shortfall in its income due to rising costs and an inequitable level of funding from the Devon Integrated Care Board (ICB), the local NHS funding body.

In March, despite receiving an extra £480,000 from NHS Devon to boost its budget for the next year following persistent campaigning, the charity announced it would be cutting its number of beds and reducing its weekend community nursing service due to a shortfall in funding compared with other hospices in the country.

The hospice is still campaigning for fair funding from Devon ICB to safeguard its services for people in Exeter, central and east Devon living with terminal illnesses.

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Independent health and social care regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspected the service between January and April of this year. The report, published at the end of last month, praised the hospice as being 'exceptionally effective'.

Inspectors noted that Hospiscare patients felt they were treated with dignity and appreciated hospice staff members’ 'can-do' attitude. The care provided was said to be flexible, well-coordinated, and respectful of patient choices and views.

The hospice’s outreach work and partnerships were found to provide palliative care for those in society who might otherwise struggle to access it and hospice staff were recognised for their knowledge, skills, and training.

The charity was voted 'outstanding' in the categories of well-led, caring, response and effective, and 'good' in the category of safe, with an overall verdict of 'outstanding'.

Ann Rhys, clinical director at Hospiscare, said: “It’s testament to the skill, dedication and hard work of our staff members and the support of our volunteers at Hospiscare that our services have been rated by CQC as outstanding. I’m particularly proud that our specialist care was noted by inspectors to be exceptionally effective and responsive.

“I’d also like to thank our supporters in the local community who fund our charity through donations, playing our lottery, shopping in our charity shops and leaving a gift in their wills. It’s thanks to their generosity that we’re able to provide our services to those in need of expert end-of-life care, free of charge.”

Hospiscare is an independent hospice charity that provides vital end-of-life care services across 1,064 square miles of Devon, including some of the most rural areas of the county. The charity raises more than 80 per cent of its running costs from its fundraising activities every year, with only 18 per cent of its costs funded by the NHS. In comparison, the national average in NHS funding is said to be 37 per cent.

In November 2023, the hospice reported that it would have to cut its services unless its statutory funding was brought in line with the average level of national hospice funding. It costs close to £10 million each year for the hospice to provide its services.

Ann Rhys, Clinical Director of Hospiscare, Simon Jupp MP for East Devon and Andrew Randall, CEO of Hospiscare
Ann Rhys, Clinical Director of Hospiscare, Simon Jupp MP for East Devon and Andrew Randall, CEO of Hospiscare

In April of this year, the deficit resulted in Hospiscare only being able to offer eight instead of 12 beds, and to reduce its weekend community nursing service.

In March, when the changes were announced NHS Devon confirmed funding for hospices in Devon has not decreased and that issues around hospice funding are not limited to Devon.

Hospiscare has four sites: Searle House in Exeter, Kings House in Honiton, Pine Lodge in Tiverton and High View in Exmouth, which provide outpatient services. The charity also provides care in patients’ homes and community settings, with nursing teams located across the region.