St. Margaret’s Hospice is joining forces with other hospices across the UK to support a new campaign aimed at widening access to the vital support they provide for people with life-limiting conditions and those who care for them.

The Open Up Hospice Care campaign – which launches today (March 4) and is led by national hospice and palliative care charity Hospice UK – highlights how hospice care is available beyond hospice in-patient units, including in people’s homes.

One in four people in the UK miss out on the care they need, according to earlier research by the national charity, due to a range of reasons, including: late or a lack of referrals to hospice services and low levels of awareness about hospice care and where and when this support is available.

Studies have also shown that people from economically deprived areas, BAME (black and minority ethnic) communities and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people can experience barriers to accessing end of life care services.

Hospice UK and local hospices are working to tackle this through initiatives to extend care to more people, such as expanding community services and reaching out to the different groups of people who have been missing out on vital support, including those caring for their loved ones at home.

Hospices provide wide-ranging support for both people with life-limiting conditions and their families, including counselling, bereavement support and respite care.

Across Somerset, St. Margaret’s Hospice cared for 3,800 people last year. The majority of patients are cared for in their own homes by the charity’s community teams.

Today Hospice UK publishes the findings of a new survey by ComRes which found that seven in 10 UK adults (72 per cent) say support from a local hospice would make them feel more confident in supporting a loved one with a terminal condition at home.

And more than eight in 10 (82 per cent) UK adults surveyed say the role of hospices will become more important in the next decade, due in large part to the growing care needs of the UK’s ageing population.

The ComRes survey also showed that half of UK adults surveyed (48%) are aware that hospices receive the majority of their funding from fundraising and donations, including via charity shops and lotteries. Nearly a fifth of those surveyed (17%) incorrectly think hospices receive the majority of their funding from the NHS.

Ann Lee

Ann Lee, CEO of St. Margaret’s Hospice, said: “We are supporting Hospice UK’s Open Up Hospice Care campaign because it’s vitally important to raise awareness of the range of support available to people facing a life-limiting illness, especially out in the community.

“As this new national survey reflects, our ageing population in Somerset means demand for our care is continuing to rise. While it’s encouraging that most people recognise hospices can help if they are caring for a loved one at home, it’s concerning that nearly one in five believe hospices get most of our funding from the NHS. As an independent Somerset charity, we rely on the generosity of our local community to help us raise the £9.5m we need each year, after NHS funding, to deliver our care.

“One way we are opening up hospice care is through our new funeral service. We have been touched by the lovely comments from families we have helped since our Taunton funeral home opened last year. Interestingly, two thirds of our clients have not been hospice patients, which shows that we are extending our care to more people in our community.”

Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK, said: “For some, hospice care can seem a remote reality but we are all living longer, often with complex health conditions, and more of us will need this care in the future ourselves, or will be caring for a loved one who does.

“As our survey shows, the British public clearly values the role of hospices and recognises they will become more important in future given the seismic shift in our rapidly ageing society and with the increasing strain on the NHS. However despite this, many people find out about hospice care far too late.

“With its focus on comfort not cure and promoting quality of life and what matters most to people, hospice care can help them live well until the end of life and support their loved ones and it is available in more places than most people realise. We want to share the benefits of hospice care more widely so that everyone is able to get this vital support.”

To find out how you can help to Open Up Hospice Care, click here.