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Editor's Viewpoint: Hospice deserves all funding needed

Published 21/09/2012

It would take a very hard heart to be unmoved by the series of articles carried in this newspaper this week on the work of the NI Children's Hospice.

The work carried out there by the staff in the most trying of circumstances is incredible in its professionalism and in its empathy with parents who are going through their worst nightmare - having a child with a life-limiting illness. It is shocking therefore to realise that lack of finance is itself limiting the work of the institution.

The Hospice requires £3m a year to run at its current level. Only a meagre £500,000 of that comes from government funding, the rest is raised by donations, legacies, and all sorts of activities from flag days to functions.

The Hospice has 10 beds, but can only afford to open seven of them and one of those is for grave, immediate emergencies. Its outreach service to the community is limited to the most ill young people because of lack of money.

It needs an additional £1m a year from government to enable it to offer its full range of services and open its full complement of beds.

Even in these times of public spending austerity, that is a minuscule amount of money from government coffers. For example, the public sector spends £14m a year on external consultants; at one time the bill was £42m a year.

It doesn't take long to work out where the greater value for money or where the greater benefit lies.

Today we report on how young adults, too old to be treated by the hospice, are being failed because of lack of alternative services. Some may end up in nursing homes with the elderly.

In a civilised society which should value its humanity, that is a disgrace.

The hospice movement shows how to treat people with dignity and skill as their end nears. It also treats their relatives with a humbling respect. Isn't it time our political paymasters showed it the same regard?

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