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Nursing shortage threatens to cut care for seriously ill children

News and comment

A shortage of nurses has resulted in two thirds of voluntary sector children’s palliative care services reducing their offer of care to families. This is resulting in reduced care for families such as: fewer available beds in children’s hospices; a reduction in short breaks on offer to families; and preventing children from being cared for and forming meaningful relationships with their nurse as agency nurses change from day to day.

Our Nursing Vacancy Survey 2015 has found that, on average, 10% of nursing posts within voluntary children’s palliative care organisations remain vacant- the same as our first Nursing Vacancy Survey in 2014. This is higher than the NHS average nurse vacancy rate (7%). 60% of the vacancies in our survey are defined as hard to fill, which means that they were vacant for over three months.

Together for Short Lives is pressing the UK’s governments and health workforce planners to commit to making sure that there is a strong and sustainable children’s palliative care workforce with the right skills, knowledge and competencies to deliver high quality care to children and their families. You can read more about the measures that decision makers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales should take to make sure that they deliver a strong children’s palliative care workforce as part of the Care Around the Clock campaign.

Commenting on the survey results, Barbara Gelb OBE, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives said:

“Children with life-shortening conditions depend on a skilled and specialised children’s palliative care workforce to help them and their families lead lives which are as fulfilling as possible.

Our survey demonstrates that there remains a worrying shortage of nurses able to deliver children’s palliative care and that this is having a direct impact on the services that providers can offer. It shows that organisations are reducing their care offer, which results in families being unable to access the support that they need, especially overnight and at weekends. This places families under greater strain and increases the likelihood of unnecessary hospital admissions at these times. Ultimately, this can mean that a child and their family are unable to choose where to receive their end of life care.

We are working with governments across the UK to make sure that they set out a long-term, sustainable vision for children’s palliative care nursing so that children receive the best possible care – when and where they need it.”

You can read a summary of our Nursing Vacancy Survey 2015 here, including the methodology of the survey.

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