As we enter our third general election in four years, we understand some of the pressures parliamentary candidates are under. There are clearly deep divisions over Brexit, shifts in traditional supporter bases, huge uncertainty over the election outcome along with the inevitable lobbying from powerful campaign groups. Amidst this political chaos, the voice and needs of a small local charity like Teesside Hospice might seem trivial or easily dealt with, by well-meaning words of support and generic statements about how much of our work is valued.
In years gone by that might have been all we needed. Hospices like ours used to have a stable and secure place in our healthcare system. We had little competition for funding, regular large donations and a small, but steady, contribution from the NHS towards our work. In recent times this has changed.
Teesside Hospice, like many others, is facing an uncertain future. Our patients and their families quite rightly expect the specialist doctors and nurses to support them. Not just end of life care, but also for pain management and complex symptom control. Our clinical work is rightfully held to the same standards as any hospital by the Care Quality Commission. Our support services deliver specialist counselling, not only to bereaved adults, but also children experiencing the trauma of losing someone significant to them early in their young lives.
Until recently, the generosity of people across Teesside has met the 70% of our costs that the NHS don’t fund. This is an astonishing figure, and nowhere else in healthcare would the public be expected to raise such sums year-on-year, to deliver essential clinical services. The fact that our community support us so much is remarkable, and we thank each and every one of them for their help.
The harsh reality though, is that if Teesside Hospice is to continue delivering palliative and end of life care at the same specialist levels it currently achieves, we need extra help from the NHS. Not just one off payments, not loose change that is found at year-end. We need ongoing and sustainable funding that will allow us to continue delivering a service that not only means so much to local people, but also to the wider healthcare system.
We’re not being greedy. We’re not asking for the NHS to fund all of our work. Our call to prospective MPs is to take up this challenge for us, and be our champions. We want the NHS to match, pound for pound, what the people of Teesside donate to support our work, and increase their contribution to 50%.
For those candidates who want a good story to tell, who want their photograph in a much-loved local charity, who want to make a lasting difference to their population when they need it the very most; come and talk to us. We’re here, we’re voters and we want to work with you.
David Smith, Chief Executive
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