The mystery surrounding what was behind the meeting last month between David Cameron and Simon Cowell would appear to have been solved.
The X Factor judge is the Patron of Children's Hospices UK and has today been quoted by the party as welcoming an announcement that David Cameron has made this morning during a visit to a children's hospice in Loughborough.
The Tory leader announced that a Conservative Government would pledge a continued annual £10 million grant to children's hospices – which look after some of the 4,000 children who die each year from terminal diseases – until reforms guaranteeing long-term funding become fully introduced, which would see a new per-patient funding stream for all hospices and other providers of end-of-life care.
Mr Cameron, who lost his own profoundly disabled son Ivan earlier this year, said:
“This Christmas many thousands of families in Britain are caring for terminally ill children… It is essential that these parents and carers get the support they need to make life liveable, comfortable and fun for both them and their children.
"Hospices provide a vital part of that support. They are a sanctuary for parents looking for specialist help and understanding, a special place for children to have short breaks and – most importantly – a loving, professional environment for care at the end of a child’s life. So it is extremely concerning to hear that the grant runs out in March 2011 and there are no current plans to renew it. The Conservative Party is today making a commitment to ensuring that proper funding for this essential sector can continue… Nothing can be more important than caring for our most vulnerable children.”
Whilst today's announcement concerns children, I gather that the current funding envelope for adult end-of-life care also stops in March 2011 and that this potentially leaves a gap there that will also need to be addressed. The party's proposed tariff system for end-of-life care would see
hospices and other providers funded on the basis of the number of
people who use their services. But the proposed timescale for that is to pilot the tariff in
2012-13 and implement it by 2013-14.
Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, seems to acknowledge the need to deal with this wider issue in a statement this morning:
“In the longer-term, Conservatives will make sure all hospices are properly paid for the work they do, which would otherwise be the NHS’s responsibility. The support they provide at the end of people’s lives is invaluable; paying them properly will mean that more people are helped to die at home or in the community as is their wish, rather than being needlessly rushed into hospital.”