NHS Western Isles addresses funding for Bethesda palliative care

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Funding for our health services in the Western Isles has come under the spotlight this week due to the concerns being raised about supporting palliative (end of life) care.

Last week the Gazette reported on the funding level for palliative care at Bethesda Care Home and Hospice in Stornoway.

The care organisation had been warning the local health authority that due to chronic underfunding they would not be able to continue to offer palliative care without further cash support.

In order to try and resolve the issue a new funding offer by the Integrated Joint Board (IJB) was considered by Bethesda recently, but was ultimately rejected, on the basis that not enough money was being committed.

In answer to that rejection NHS Western Isles, told the Gazette this afternoon (Tuesday): “NHS Western Isles has worked closely with Bethesda Hospice over the years to ensure that the best possible outcomes are being achieved by both parties, and at each review, agree the level of funding for the next period.

“With regard to the improved funding offer, the Health Board put forward what was considered to be a fair and reasonable offer covering the next three years in the first instance, commencing April 2019.

“It is disappointing that the Bethesda Board has rejected that offer.

“Included in the offer was an uplift of £10,000 for 2019/20 against the 2018/19 baseline and backdated to April 1st 2019 as well as an annual uplift in line with the increase provided to NHS Western Isles (predicted to be 2.5%) for the two years thereafter (2020/21 and 2021/22).

“Following those two years, the Health Board committed to an agreement whereby, in the event that Bethesda’s audited accounts indicate two successive years of financial deficit, negotiations would be re-opened about the funding provided to Bethesda.

“NHS Western Isles operates on the basis of the extant guidance, focussing on meeting a fifty per cent calculation of agreed operating costs. Is is fair to say that further work needs to be done to obtain agreed detail on an ongoing basis.

“Notwithstanding the fact that Bethesda has significant financial reserves that are a matter of public knowledge, we aim to agree the current operating commitment to be met, and we remain committed to a positive outcome.”

The health authority added: “In relation to previous years’ payments, NHS Western Isles does not on an annual basis routinely uplift any third sector budgets in the absence of material evidence of needs led or demand led changes to the service being agreed and provided.

“NHS Western Isles would reiterate that the delivery of high quality and effective palliative and end of life care is a key strategic priority.

“Our clinical teams and external partners deliver a range of quality and person centred care and support services for patients and their families at their most difficult times.

“The Board values and appreciates all those who contribute to this work, including Bethesda. “The Board has an obligation, and is committed to ensuring that locally based hospice care is available to members of our community, and we would like to reassure members of the public that we are fully committed to ensuring the ongoing provision.”