Tim Farron has urged the government to provide more financial support for hospices in Cumbria amid a backdrop of 'soaring costs'.

The MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale took to the floor of the House of Commons on Monday night during a Backbench Business Debate on hospice funding.

According to Hospice UK, England’s adults’ hospices have faced a real-terms cut in their Government funding of £47m in the past two years.

Mr Farron said: "St Mary’s Hospice, St John’s Hospice and Eden Valley Hospice, which serve the communities of Westmorland, struggle like others to find the funding that they need to keep going.

“One issue is increased pay settlements in the NHS, which are good, but to compete, and to get and retain staff, they need to raise their pay to keep pace.

"One model may well be that, rather than devolving this to ICBs, which are not elected and not directly accountable to anybody, the Government fund through the national health service pay rises at NHS pay rates directly to all our hospices.”

The Minister responsible for end of life and palliative care, MP Helen Whately, explained that she did not agree with that principle.

"Some honourable members have argued this evening for hospice funding to be centralised, taken away from integrated care boards and, I assume, allocated by either NHS England or the Department of Health and Social Care," she said.

"We purposefully set up ICBs to understand the healthcare needs of our local communities, to plan and commission services to meet those needs and, in so doing, to reduce health disparities."

In contrast, Val Stangoe - Chief Executive of St Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston - welcomed Mr Farron's comments.

She explained: "Eight out of every ten patients we care for have their funding paid for directly by donations that are made to us. 

“I don’t think many people begrudge a pay rise for nurses or care staff in the NHS - they are ‘key workers’ who do incredible things for relatively little reward.

“But Tim is right to point out that increasing pay in the NHS, which is a positive thing, does have an unintended consequence in placing more strain on hospices like ours."

In the past year, St Mary's has given its staff a 6% pay rise, but this still means they are paid below equivalent NHS rates.

“Our local ICB is also cash-strapped, so us jumping up and down and demanding more money from them isn’t very constructive," Ms Stangoe added. 

"A proposal like the one Tim Farron has made would have a hugely beneficial impact, but only if the government ensured that new funding was provided to cover it.”