Together for Short Lives
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Introduction to children’s palliative care

Children’s palliative care is about promoting the best possible quality of life and care for every child with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition and their family. Giving families real choice has been key to this approach: a choice of place of care; a choice of place of death; and a choice of emotional and bereavement support.

What is children’s palliative care?

Palliative care for children and young people is an active and total approach to care, from the point of diagnosis, throughout the child’s life, death and beyond. It embraces physical, emotional, social and spiritual elements and focuses on the enhancement of quality of life for the child or young person and support for the whole family. It includes the management of distressing symptoms, provision of short breaks, care at the end of life and bereavement support.

Palliative care can be introduced at any point throughout a child’s life; it is completely individual. Some children may require palliative care from birth; others only as their condition deteriorates. Families may also vary as to whether they wish to pursue treatments aimed to cure or significantly prolong life. In practice, palliative care should be offered from diagnosis of a life-shortening condition or from recognition that curative treatment for a life-threatening condition is not an option. However, each situation is different and care should be tailored to the child.

The Together for Short Lives Charter  was developed with families and sets out 10 key things that children and families should expect from their local children’s palliative care services. Based on the underlying principles of dignity and respect the Charter is a key reference to help understand what children’s palliative care should strive to look like: trying to ensure that all children and families receive appropriate palliative care underpins all the work that Together for Short Lives undertakes.

Supporting better care

Together for Short Lives is committed to ensuring that children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions receive the best palliative care and support they can. Children’s palliative care is provided by a wide range of professionals and services, and we provide information and resources to both families and professionals to help them navigate the system and achieve the best outcomes for children they can. Our website contains a host of information, and you can also contact our helpline for information.