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Wanted: a brave politician who will fight for hospice funding

PUBLISHED: 16:46 17 December 2007 | UPDATED: 14:38 07 September 2010

Within the past fortnight have come two high-profile commendations of the work done by local hospices. Last week, ITV s chief political reporter Daisy McAndrew spoke candidly of the care and compassion shown by the St John s Hospice during her father s la

Within the past fortnight have come two high-profile commendations of the work done by local hospices. Last week, ITV's chief political reporter Daisy McAndrew spoke candidly of the care and compassion shown by the St John's Hospice during her father's last days there.

Actor Bob Hoskins holds the Hampstead Hospice in the same high esteem. He made his sense of gratitude clear on Saturday evening when he spoke movingly at the annual Lights to Remember appeal, which this newspaper is proudly supporting for the fourth year running.

Mr Hoskins also lost his father but the ordeal was made considerably more bearable by the sensitivity and consideration shown to him by staff at Lyndhurst Gardens. ''It's a funny thing to admit, but I love this place,'' he said, echoing the sentiments of many of the 300 people who attended this poignant annual event.

The name of the North London Hospice can also be added to the list of local establishments which have cared patiently, diligently, sympathetically and with no small amount of medical expertise for patients and their families in their darkest hours. Yet the reality is that hospices would not exist if it were not for the benevolence of the public.

Funding from health authorities covers only a proportion of their costs - usually less than half. Hampstead Hospice, for example, relies on the public to raise 70 per cent of its annual running costs. For the remainder, hospice managements have to engage in vigorous fundraising campaigns to keep open their welcoming doors.

And this is only part of the story. Were it not also for the huge amount of work carried out for free by volunteers (there are 100 of them attached to St John's) the lights of hope provided by hospices across the country would be rapidly extinguished.

Is there a politician who is prepared to make it their life's work to fight for more public funding? Far from being a drain on the NHS, hospices take on board both the expense and the high duty of care owed to people in their final hours. They offer respite to families and loved ones, as well as counselling and other important (and expensive) services. We think of hospices particularly at this time of year but their work never ends. Nor should our appreciation of the invaluable work they do.

The debt we owe them, each and every one, is immeasurable.

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