Concern over under-staffed paediatric units

Together for Short Lives is concerned by evidence published today by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) which shows that more than half of paediatric units are failing to meet its safe staffing standards. The RCPCH has found that more than a quarter of paediatric posts at senior trainee level are vacant and consultants are having to provide unplanned cover in addition to their own roles, which is not sustainable in the long-term. These staff shortages have resulted in almost nine out of 10 clinical directors expressing concern over how their service will perform over the next six months.

Commenting on the new survey, Shaun Walsh, Director of External Relations at Together for Short Lives, said:

“Children and young people with life-shortening conditions rely on a range of professionals with the right skills, knowledge and competencies to care for them. This includes paediatricians in both hospitals and in the community. We are deeply concerned by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s findings, which suggest that without urgent action, the most vulnerable children will find it even harder to access the specialist medical care they need.

“We fully support the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s recommendation that the number of children’s nurses should be increased; demand for children’s palliative care is increasing but the number of qualified nurses to provide that support is not matching demand - our evidence shows that there is a shortage in children’s nurses available to provide children’s palliative care in the voluntary sector - the impact of these shortages is already being felt with two thirds of services telling us that their vacancies resulted in a reduced offer of care to families.

“We ask that a range of organisations, including Health Education England and education providers, work with Together for Short Lives and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to make sure that we have a workforce that can meet the needs of seriously ill children and young people.  We will shortly be publishing a recruitment film to help drive awareness and interest in becoming a children’s palliative care nurse.”

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