A new guide, released today by Together for Short Lives, calls for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to work together across a population of at least one million in order to plan an effective children’s palliative care (CPC) service for England.
The 40,000 children in England living with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition represent a small population in healthcare commissioning terms, making planning appropriate services difficult and often inefficient.
An effectively commissioned CPC service can save the NHS money by supporting early discharge from acute care settings through step-down care and reducing unplanned hospital admissions. Government figures show that hospital admissions in the last year of life for children who need CPC cost an estimated £18.2m – this far outweighs the cost of providing care outside a hospital setting.
Children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions require a complex package of care, often over a long period which, if commissioned effectively, can reduce emergency admissions and hospital stays. Yet, in the past it has not always been a priority for commissioners, leading to a patchy and inconsistent approach. We recognise the challenges for CCGs in commissioning care for this relatively small but complex group of children. Our new guidance shows that by building partnerships CCGs can create the economies of scale necessary to commission services effectively, saving NHS money and improving care.Andrew Fletcher, Director of External Affairs at Together for Short Lives
Current commissioning and funding for the children’s palliative care sector across England is hugely variable. For example, over a third of local CCG funding for children’s hospices supports just six services, while three services receive nothing. The new guide, written specifically for CCGs offers a consistent approach to planning CPC by outlining five key actions for commissioners.
Dr Satbir Jassal, a GP and Child Health Lead at NHS West Leicestershire CCG, said
“As a GP, I have seen first-hand the impact that serious illness has on a child and their family. The complexity of many life-limiting conditions means that young people, parents and siblings need a range of services from the NHS, local authorities and the voluntary sector – in hospitals, children’s hospices and in the community. As a commissioner, I also know that by implementing this guidance, CCGs have a real opportunity to make a difference – co-ordinating healthcare around the child and helping the family make the most of the short time they have together. Failure to commission children’s palliative care leads to undue stress for families in circumstances that are already potentially traumatic and upsetting.”
Download the new report: Commissioning children’s palliative care: A guide for Clinical Commissioning Groups LINK IS NEEDED HERE TO INFLUENCING POLICY