Hospice fears funding shake-up

Hospices like St Joseph’s and Richard House are fearful they could be left with huge funding gaps as a result of the NHS shake-up being brought in by the government.

As part of the cuts GPs are soon going to be responsible for how health money is spent, meaning hospices will have to bid in a completely new system.

While campaigns like the upcoming vintage midnight walk are part and parcel of the fundraising both hospices depend on, they also rely heavily on public cash.

Grant Usmar, head of funding at St Joseph’s in Mare Street said there is now a “real concern” that the new arrangement could lead to cuts.

He explained: “We don’t know what’s going to happen with the NHS in the future and how GPs will cope with the new funding challenges.

“The GPs are not going to find their feet from day one so what’s going to happen in the interim?”

Under government guidance, GPs are being encouraged to start up forums to discuss how they will begin commissioning services.

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At the moment managers decide how cash will be spent but the new system puts the power in the hands of GPs.

The new plans have drawn criticism from health groups, with many arguing that GPs do not have the skills necessary to make major funding decisions and also that their new rule could lead to them spending less time with patients.

Alwen Williams, chief executive of NHS East London and the City, said it is working with GPs to make sure they have the “skilled and experienced support” to make funding decisions.

She added: “Traditionally we have awarded contracts over a one year basis but to ensure stability we have awarded St Joseph’s a two year contract from the start of the 2011/12 financial year.”

St Joseph’s chief executive Michael Kerin said uncertainty about future funding does not stem from local partners like the NHS trust.

He added the trust is providing them with “excellent support”.

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