Dying – whose responsibility?
By guest blogger JEF SMITH
The flow of financial goodies with which the Johnson government hopes to seduce the electorate continued last week with the promise of £25m to improve services for people with terminal illnesses. The greater part of that sum will go to hospices, which provide residential, and increasingly also domiciliary services, for people close to death.
The devotion of the staff and volunteers who work in the hospice movement and the quality of the support they provide cannot be questioned, but why does our society leave the funding for such a vital service to voluntarily-run organisations rather than seeing it as a central element of the NHS’s budget? Most hospices receive less than 30% of their income from government, and nearly three quarters report that since 2017, grants from their local Clinical Commissioning Group have been frozen or even cut. It has even been argued that the existence of this parallel non-governmental structure discourages the NHS from facing up to its own responsibility for providing a better service for the much larger number of people who die in hospitals.
There are other disadvantages to the hospice movement’s existing outside mainstream health services. Hospices still focus very heavily on cancer patients, largely ignoring people dying of other conditions, including the even more prevalent dementia. Their eligibility criteria remain hazy, and their image is heavily contaminated by association with religion – even recent foundations are often named after Christian saints – surely alienating people of other faiths or none and arousing suspicions that they favour some sections of the population. Their geographical coverage of the country is seriously uneven.
Death comes to all of us in due course, so there is no better candidate for mainstream public funding than providing decent facilities for dying with dignity. Mr Johnson’s paltry £25 million evades this much more fundamental issue.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.