Together for Short Lives
Call the Helpline 0808 8088 100

A workforce in crisis

Nurse with little boy

A growing shortage of skilled children’s palliative care doctors and nurses across England has reached crisis point. It is leading to seriously ill children and their families missing out on crucial out of hours care and vital short respite breaks. We’re calling on government ministers to take urgent action to address the children’s palliative care workforce crisis in the NHS People Plan.

Our new report, A workforce in crisis: children’s palliative care in 2019, shows a children’s palliative care workforce at breaking point:

  • There are just 15 children’s palliative care consultants in the UK when there should be 40-60.
  • On average children’s hospices have a nursing vacancy rate of 12.2%.
  • Two thirds of children’s hospice nursing posts remain vacant for three months or more.
  • There are just 574 NHS community children’s nurses in England: safe staffing levels suggest there should be around 5,500 CCNs.

Serious impact

These staff shortages are having a direct impact on terminally ill children and their families. Despite being assessed as needing 24-hour support by the NHS, some children and young people are not getting around the clock care. This is because there are too few carers with the skills and experience needed. Mum Gail Bedding, whose son Fergus has a life-limiting condition and complex medical needs explains the problem: “It is a problem finding the right staff and making sure they turn up for day and night shifts. . . I am battling to try and get more help long term”.

Gail and Fergus Bedding
A lack of skilled carers means Gail Bedding struggles to get the care she needs for her son Fergus

Take Action

The NHS says children’s palliative care is an important priority for the NHS. But the services that provide it are struggling with a dangerous mix of growing staff shortages and rising caseloads. Terminally ill children and their families are missing out on the care they need.

We’ve sent an open letter to open letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock which demands he takes decisive action to end the children’s palliative care workforce crisis by making serious investments in planning, recruitment and training to ensure that gaps in the workforce are identified, and then filled. We’re fighting to get the children’s palliative care workforce taken seriously as part of the NHS upcoming People Plan. You can help us by sharing our letter with your local MP, and ask them to raise these issues personally with the minister.

  • 58%

    of children’s hospice organisations report a lack of appropriately skilled nurses being available to fill posts