North East hospices will be forced to close without urgent funding, bosses last night warned, with current services 'not sustainable' due to rising costs.

David Smith, chief Executive of St Teresa’s Darlington Hospice and Teesside Hospice in Middlesbrough, said his charities are now "unable to meet the ever-rising costs of the specialist hospice care" and called for immediate help "before it’s too late and hospice services are forced to reduce or close".

Earlier this week, he met with MPs in the Tees Valley who have joined with providers of palliative care in the region to address the concerns to stop hospices having to deal with "a financial cliff edge".

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Mr Smith said Teesside Hospice is now facing a fundraising deficit of £150,000. Every day, they need to raise £5,500 to provide vital care services to those with terminal illnesses across our region.

It comes after the leaders of the 12 independent charitable hospices in the North East and North Cumbria forecast spending an extra £1m on energy bills in the next 12 months at a time when they are already under pressure from other rising costs.

They also feared the strain on family budgets will mean donations will drop, leading them to issue an urgent call for ministers to provide them with financial support so they can continue to provide their vital end-of-life care services.

Mr Smith said:“Good quality, holistic hospice care makes a tremendous difference to individuals and whole families during some of the most difficult and traumatic times imaginable.

"Despite the enduring and generous support of our communities, our charities are now unable to meet the ever-rising costs of the specialist hospice care.

"With much of our work being done on behalf of and in partnership with the NHS, we urgently need our local NHS commissioners to follow their own national funding guidance before it’s too late and hospice services are forced to reduce or close.

"We hope the unified and robust support from all of the Tees Valley MPs will raise awareness of the precarious position we are in and focus minds on finding a solution before it’s too late."

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Hospices have previously warned fears about the costs of staying warm and running vital medical equipment will see many patients either continuing to receive care at home but with the added stress of worrying about their energy bills or, alternatively, not having a choice about where they die.

At the same time, the costs of hospice care itself are set to increase significantly. Already, the 12 North East and Cumbria independent hospices must raise a total of more than £31m each year in order to keep their services free and available.

ICBs now have a legal obligation to commission end of life care, something that had previously been a postcode lottery for those needing the services. It now means that a certain level of funding has been secured for palliative care providers, who very frequently are charities.

Despite the partial security of funding from NHS sources, the message from Tees Valley's hospices was that fundraising had become much more difficult as a result of the cost of living crisis.

Sandra Britten and Nicola Haggan, chief executives of Alice House Hospice in Hartlepool, said: "Alice House Hospice faces its most challenging financial year in 2023-24 as soaring energy bills and the cost of living crisis begin to impact on our patient care services.

"We are working in collaboration with other local hospices and with the support of the Tees Valley MPs. These discussions are essential in securing the financial sustainability and ongoing provision of Hospice services in our region.”

Darlington MP Peter Gibson hosted a meeting in Parliament this week alongside Parliamentary colleagues and bosses of Tees Valley Hospices to discuss the provision of palliative care.

While MPs attending included Jill Mortimer MP for Hartlepool, Jacob Young MP for Redcar, Paul Howell MP for Sedgefield and Andy McDonald MP for Middlesbrough, representatives from the Offices of Simon Clarke MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Matt Vickers MP for Stockton South and Alex Cunningham MP for Stockton North were also present.

Mr Gibson said: "This is not a party-political issue, and I was delighted that all Tees Valley MPs chose to play a part in this meeting. We will continue working together on this important to ensure all of the Tees Valley has access to the palliative care everyone deserves.”

Edward Gorringe, Chief Executive of Butterwick Hospice in Stockton said, "During our meeting with our local Tees Valley MP’s, we were able to share our fundamental issue; that we as healthcare providers cannot continue to fund high-quality compassionate end of life care primarily through voluntary fundraising.

"The support of our local communities is vital and will always be essential to help us provide the personalised services that are so important to our patients and their families. Nevertheless, in order to meet the undeniable need for quality end of life care, hospices must have their core services fully funded.”


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Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald promised to take action following the meeting. "The Integrated Care Board (ICB) now have to provide for palliative care and I, along with other Teesside MPs, will be writing to the ICB for an explanation as to why they are not resourcing palliative care in the way that was expected," he said.

"I will also be making my own enquiries as the consequences of these vital, much respected charities not being able to continue does not bear thinking about."

North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) were asked to comment for this story.