BOSSES of a cash-strapped baby hospice have warned more children’s hospices could be forced to reduce their services to families in need even further unless there is a significant increase in funding.

Joan Stainsby, the executive trustee at Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice, said the lack of funding from the NHS and local government has now reached "crisis point".

Last week, NHS England pledged to ring fence funding to children’s hospices by 2023, but over the last three years more than 60 per cent of children’s hospices, including Zoe’s Place, have had to use reserves to cover the shortfall in income, according to Mrs Stainsby.

The warning comes after the Middlesbrough-based hospice warned they were in the "most challenging times" they'd ever faced and would be forced to close for two nights a week due to financial hardship, meaning they would be unable to offer emergency respite for families.

The hospices provide palliative, respite and bereavement care to families of babies and children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions.

Forget me not Children’s Hospice in Bury recently announced that it had been forced to close, less than six months after opening and, despite only operating three days a week.

This was the second children’s hospice to announce closure this year, after last month’s announcement that Acorns children’s hospice in Walsall, West Midlands would close in October this year.

Mrs Stainsby, who oversees facilities in Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Coventry, said: "Higher care costs, advances in medical care leading to an increase in demand for our services and a freeze on funding for the past three years are putting enormous pressure on hospices.

“Present funding levels are quite simply not enough. Lack of funding from local government and NHS mean they only provide less than £1m of the £4.2m needed every year by Zoe’s Place to keep all three hospices’ open.

"This means that our fundraising teams need to raise 75 per cent of our total required funds from members of the public, local communities and businesses.

“We have always had fantastic support from businesses and individuals in each of our respective communities, but it is difficult to keep asking the local communities to go on funding such a vital service indefinitely.”

Earlier this year Zoe’s Place made an appeal for donations to help fund its vital work in providing an essential lifeline to families.

The first Zoë’s Place Baby Hospice opened in Liverpool in 1995, with Middlesbrough opening its doors at Crossbeck House, in High Street, in 2004 and a third facility in Coventry in 2011.

For more information, call 01642 457985.