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It is absolutely critical. I have experienced the situation in which, because of advances in medical science, the doctors cannot say whether someone will fall on one side or the other of the line of likely life expectancy—fewer or more than 25 years—and they do not qualify for support from the voluntary sector. Hospices play such an important role in supporting families and I give credit to the Government for funding children’s hospices, albeit not at the same level as adult hospice care.
There is, however, a cross-border issue, which Claire House neatly exemplifies. The hospice treats a number of Welsh patients—it will not turn children away—but it does not get funded for any of the treatment it gives to them. I urge the Minister to consider having National Institute for Health and Care Excellence clinical guidance that would apply nationally and help to iron out some of the wrinkles, perhaps taking some of the best practice in the devolved nations. We have heard powerful contributions about some of the efforts being made in Northern Ireland. There is some learning that can be gained from across the devolved nations, but guidelines would ensure that hospices were put on a sustainable footing.
On that point, I support the call for joint commissioning and ask the Minister to consider what happens after the death of a child. I am here partly in my capacity as the chair of the all-party group on baby loss, and the subject has been debated elsewhere. There is important counselling support that could be put in place before the loss of a child and, indeed, afterwards. Hope House, for example, has a dedicated counselling centre and I am delighted that recently—in fact, just this week— I got confirmation from the Treasury that the Alder Centre could apply for LIBOR funding. The centre provides vital bereavement support for families in the north-west and I very much hope that it puts in an application before August. That is a beacon of light perhaps in the north-west and in the debate.