A collection of North East MPs have penned a letter calling for more support for the region's hospices as bosses warn the current situation is unsustainable.

Peter Gibson, MP for Darlington and co-chair of APPG on hospice and end of life care, has penned a letter this Wednesday (February 8) alongside Tees Valley MPs calling for greater support for the region's hospices.

This comes after the group met with hospice chiefs in Parliament to discuss the lack of funding made available to the sector.

Speaking on the letter, Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesbrough, said he and his colleagues had written to the Chief Executive of NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS) to underliine the underfunding of hospices in the area.

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The Northern Echo:

He said: “Together with other Tees Valley MPs, we have written to the chief executive of NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System regarding ongoing issues with funding for palliative care in our region. 

"Having met with David Smith from Teesside Hospice, I know there are real concerns. The fact is that hospices in our area are in budget deficit. 

"We know just how awful the consequences would be if these much-needed and well-respected charities could not continue.

"I look forward to hearing back from the chief executive of the Integrated Care System and very much hope they meet with us in Parliament to address our very real concerns.” 

This meeting was also attended by the chief executives representing Teesside, Butterwick, Alice House and St Teresa's hospices.

The letter was signed by Darlington MP Peter Gibson, Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald, Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham, Redcar MP Jacob Young, Hartlepool MP Jill Mortimer, Stockton South MP Matt Vickers, Sedgefield MP Paul Howell, and Levelling Up Secretary and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Simon Clarke.

The Northern Echo:

The letter read: "Last week, all members of Parliament from the Tees Valley and met with the chief executives of our four hospices, namely: Teesside, Butterwick, Alice House and St Teresa's, in Parliament to discuss the shortfall in commissioning for palliative care, the funding challenges for our hospices, and the opportunity to greater utilise these services you have open to you.

"We are collectively concerned that attempts by the Hospice sector in our region to secure specific commissioning from the ICB have failed to materialise, missing opportunities to prioritise the service to our communities as required under the Health and Social Care Act.

"At a time of immense pressure on our NHS system, it appears to us that the lack commissioning in this area is a wasted opportunity to alleviate pressure, which if properly commissioned would save money, resources and provide better services to our communities."

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Last week, 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."

He also called for immediate action to be taken before his and other hospices were forced to reduce or even close their doors.

He also warned that palliative care providers may soon be forced to deal with a "financial cliff edge," and said that Teesside Hospice is facing a fundraising deficit of £150,000.

Speaking last week, he 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.

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"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."

This 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.