Together for Short Lives has welcomed NHS England’s decision to recognise children’s palliative care as an important priority in its new long-term plan. The charity is now calling on the government to make sure this leads to properly resourced children’s palliative care services across England, in both the statutory and voluntary sectors.
On page 54 of the plan, NHS England reiterates that over the next five years it will match-fund clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) who commit to increase their investment in local children’s palliative and end of life care services, including children’s hospices. This could increase NHS support to children’s hospices by up to £14million a year by 2023/24.
NHS England will also create a ‘Children and Young People’s Transformation Programme’ – and will introduce proactive and personalised care planning for everyone identified as being in their last year of life by implementing training to help staff identify and support relevant patients.
“This recognition by NHS England is crucial for seriously ill children” said Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives. “It is also a clear message to CCGs that planning and funding palliative care for children with life-limiting conditions in hospitals, hospices and the community is part of their core business.”
“I welcome the fact that the NHS England’s commitment to more money for children’s hospices is clearly part of the plan. I call on CCGs to take the opportunity to transform outcomes for seriously ill children by investing in local children’s palliative care services and unlocking this vital funding.”
In the long-term plan, NHS England has also committed to:
- increase the number of people with personal health budgets; this will include people including those who need bespoke wheelchairs, community-based personal and domestic support, social care and specialist end of life care
- set up clinical networks from 2019/20 to improve the quality of care for children with long-term conditions
- redesign and expand neonatal critical care services and provide extra neonatal nurses and expanded roles for some allied health professionals
- develop and implement networked care to improve outcomes for children and young people with cancer, simplifying pathways and transitions between services and ensuring every child has access to specialist expertise
- move selectively to a ‘0-25 years’ service to try to improve children’s experience of care, outcomes and continuity of care as they transition to adulthood; service models for young people will be developed that offer person-centred and age appropriate care for mental and physical health needs, rather than “an arbitrary transition to adult services based on age not need.”
Andy Fletcher said: “NHS England has set out a range of measures which has potential to bring about real change for some of our most vulnerable children and their families. Their success will depend on whether the government is now able to put in place a long-term children’s palliative care strategy underpinned by a sustainable workforce and a properly-funded children’s social care system. Children with life-limiting conditions do not have time to wait and I urge ministers and officials to continue to work with Together for Short Lives to capitalise on the opportunities set out today.”