Monday 22nd April 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)
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I am humbled to be called in the debate. I commend my hon. Friends the Members for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart), and for Darlington (Peter Gibson), for bringing the debate to the House, as well as the Minister for sitting through the debate and showing amazing resilience during a long evening.

Members who have spoken in the debate fall into broadly two camps. First, there are those who have had personal experience of hospices through family members who have suffered and needed those facilities. Their speeches have come across amazingly, with real pathos and depth, and I commend all hon. Members who have spoken so personally about their journeys. Secondly, there are Members like me who have not had personal experience of hospices but recognise the importance of what they do. If I may, I will talk about two important hospices for my constituency.

Thames hospice—it was first known as Thames Valley hospice—was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen in November 1987 on Hatch Lane in Windsor. It has been serving my constituents and others in Berkshire since that time, and has shown amazing strength of character in supporting so many people.

With the Minister in her place, I contend that, as we have heard numerous times, we need to refine the funding models for hospices. In my view, the NHS needs to cough up a bit more support, but this is also about timing. Thames hospice is awaiting its funding settlement for 2024-25 from the ICB, with barely two weeks to go, so the issue is how much can be funded by the taxpayer, and about being notified of funding up front. That is really important, because it means that hospices can plan ahead for the year.

Thames hospice, having provided care for all that time, was in 2017 granted planning permission to build a new £22 million, state-of-the-art facility on a brand-new 8 acre site by Bray lake, just outside Maidenhead in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. That is important, because through the ICB, it serves many constituents in the east of Berkshire, including in Bracknell. I know of many constituents who have had fantastic care there. In January 2019, work began on construction. I visited earlier last year, when the site had been built. It was incredible, with so many fantastic staff, a café and dedicated services.

Thames hospice supports about 2,500 patients and their loved ones annually with high-quality medical and emotional support. This is all about making people’s lives easier, and making sure that their remaining time on earth is as dignified as possible. We should not underestimate or put a price or value on that. That is why we have a responsibility to fund hospice care properly.

As for the future, by 2030, 15 million people in the UK will be over 65 years old. Also, the number of young people with life-limiting neurological conditions has increased by 64% in the last 10 years, and the incidence of cancer in people under the age of 50 rose by 79% between 1990 and 2019. We should think about that. Those are really serious figures, and they mean that the demand for hospice services is likely only to increase over time.

In the past year, costs at Thames hospice have increased by 9%, with no commensurate increase in Government funding. We have heard something similar from other hon. Members this evening. To put a figure on it, Thames hospice has to raise £38,000 every day to subsidise the costs of care. That will increase to more than £50,000 a day by 2030, based on a 4% increase, year on year—and that is without even considering investment for growth in the future. The picture is similar elsewhere. To put it in perspective, Thames hospice needs £18.5 million for 2,500 people every year. That is really stark. As I mentioned, Thames hospice is the end of life care provider for the Frimley integrated care board in east Berkshire. It is of direct relevance to my constituents. I cannot thank the staff and the directors at Thames hospice enough for what they do.

I want to mention Sebastian’s Action Trust in Crowthorne, which is important because it provides palliative care for children aged between zero and 18 and supports their families. A key part of the support that the brilliant Sebastian’s Action Trust provides is memory-making support for the families who use the facility. It also continues to support the families once the child goes to end of life care. Losing a child is devastating anyway, but the fact that Sebastian’s Action Trust provides such brilliant support to families, even after that life event, is remarkable.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
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On the issue of funding for children’s palliative care, I am fortunate to have, in my neck of the woods in West Yorkshire, the Forget Me Not children’s hospice and the Kirkwood hospice. I also want to highlight the Together for Short Lives campaign ask, as other Members have done. The issue is not just sustainable funding, but surety of funding—a multi-year promise and confirmation of funding beyond ’24-25, so that children’s hospices can plan for the future, and continue caring for children with life-limiting illnesses and their families.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland
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I thank my hon. Friend for his timely intervention. As we know, palliative care is privately funded and not formally funded by the NHS. It cannot be right that such an important function is funded in a hand-to-mouth way. To prove that point, Sebastian’s Action Trust is to close its Crowthorne site, the Woodlands, later this year. A sale is expected in autumn 2024, because it cannot afford the care that it is giving to so many families, so it has to rationalise its estate and move elsewhere. In my humble view, the funding for the NHS, for our hospices and for palliative care is not enough.