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Celebrate 40 years of children’s palliative care at our Conference

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After a three year gap, it’s brilliant to be back in the saddle with our national conference, being held in September at the Hilton Hotel in Manchester.

It’s always such an amazing gathering of nurses, doctors, social care professionals and different organisations. It’s a special year as we celebrate 40 years since the foundation of children’s palliative care and the world’s first children’s hospice, Helen and Douglas House.

Our conference theme this year is ‘Unlocking Potential: The key to good quality children’s palliative care’. A broad theme that I think reflects where we are in the children’s palliative care sector. We have huge opportunities ahead with new health structures and potential to put children’s palliative care firmly on the map. However, we also face enormous challenges, not least the perfect storm of growing numbers of children and young people with serious illness against the backdrop of increasing workforce shortages and, still, a reluctance in the public and sadly with many professionals to talk about children’s palliative care in an accessible way that families can understand.

We’ll have a mix of plenary speakers, panel discussions, interactive workshops, parallel sessions, posters and exhibitors The first day of conference focuses on adapting to meet some of the challenges facing us – new service models, workforce strategies, approaches to improve access for harder to reach babies, children and young people. The second day focuses on overcoming the communication challenges that lead to families not accessing services. We have a great line up of plenary speakers:

· Lis Meates, Director of Service Delivery & Development, Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice

· Dr Cheryl Battersby, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Neonatal Medicine, Imperial College

· Claire Periton, CEO, Helen & Douglas House

· Nicky Hawkins, Director of Communications and Chiara Vare, Project Manager, On Road

· Tara Kerr-Elliott, Children’s Palliative Care Nurse Specialist/ Educator / NIHR Clinical Doctoral Nursing Fellow, GOSH Paediatric Bioethics Service

· Jeannette Littlemore, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Birmingham & Sarah Turner, Assistant Professor of Stylistics at Coventry University

· Dr Ross Smith, Consultant in Paediatric Palliative Medicine, Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust /Martin House Children’s Hospice

· Dr Julia Hackett, Research Fellow & Public Involvement Lead, Martin House Research Centre, University of York

We will also have workshops from Dr Sat Jassal talking about the new edition of the Symptom Control Manual and from Professor Lorna Fraser on building research capacity in the sector.

All topped off with a musical session with international singing star and music therapist at Derian House, Kiki de Ville!

I’m really looking forward to raising a glass and celebrating just how far we have come in the first 40 years of children’s palliative care. Who knows where the next 40 years will take us!

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