A NORTH Wales Assembly Member has called on the Welsh Government to take action to help radically improve access to hospice and palliative care for everyone across Wales.

Mark Isherwood, who Chairs the Assembly’s Cross Party Group on Hospices and Palliative Care said that while approximately 23,000 people in Wales have a palliative care need at any one time, including over 1,000 children, around 1 in 4 (approximately 6,000 people) do not get access to the end of life care they need.

Mr Isherwood urged the Welsh Government to help change this by encouraging effective collaboration between the NHS and charitable sector. Speaking in the Welsh Parliament he said that despite some progress in widening access to hospice and palliative care in Wales there "remains significant unmet need and under-met need."

Mr Isherwood also expressed concern that hospices are experiencing a number of challenges which impact on their ability to provide sufficient support services, including a lack of statutory Welsh Government funding; an out-of-date funding formula leading to a ‘postcode lottery’ of services, and unmet need caused by a lack of specialist palliative care staff.

Mr Isherwood said: "Wales’ hospices had a combined revenue of £36 million in 2018, and fundraised around £28m. Statutory funding has flatlined for many years.

"Children’s hospices tell me that although they operate on a “buy one, get seven or eight free” basis, they’ve had flatline statutory funding for ten years.

"Government funding of children’s hospices in Wales as a percentage of its charitable expenditure is lower than in England and Scotland."

In Wales, children’s hospices received 12% of their expenditure from government funding last year, compared with 21% in England and 53% in Scotland. The UK Government is doubling children’s hospice funding to £25m annually by 2023/24 and the Scottish government is providing £30 million over five years to support children’s hospices there.

He added: "Adult hospices tell me that their statutory funding has not changed for a decade and has therefore been dropping in real terms each year. Government funding for adults’ hospices as a percentage of expenditure is lower in Wales than any other UK nation.

"Whilst most people express a preference to be cared for in their usual place of residence – at home or in their care home – 55% of deaths in Wales occur in hospitals.

"However, many of these may receive some form of support from a hospice.

"Given the current pressures in Wales on the number of available hospital beds, hospices provide an opportunity to allow people to access the support they need outside of a hospital environment and according to their own preference. Local Health Boards should therefore develop close working relationships with hospice providers to allow people to access a holistic package of care – designing services together and commissioning smarter to improve lives and reduce pressure on budgets

Mr Isherwood said that a hospice leader asked him this week that despite the fact needs were growing, no more money was coming in, so at what stage "do we start to reduce provision?"

He added: "They emphasised that hospices’ independence is their strength and the reason their communities support them.

"It is therefore down to the Welsh Government to make this happen.

"Effective collaboration between the NHS and charitable sector is essential if we are to radically improve access to hospice and palliative care for everyone across Wales, with health boards asking Hospices how they can help them deliver more."