Together for Short Lives has welcomed the government’s decision to invest £3.5billion in primary and community healthcare in England.
The investment, part of the £20.5 billion real terms NHS funding boost announced by the Prime Minister in June, is designed to cut needless hospital admissions and help inpatients return home sooner through community-based rapid response teams.
The 24/7 rapid response teams will comprise doctors, nurses and physiotherapists and will provide urgent care and support in the community as an alternative to hospital. This includes emergency treatment as well as support to help patients recover closer to home, which will help people stay healthy and independent for longer.
Welcoming the news, Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives, said:
“While hospital-based children’s palliative care will remain crucial for seriously ill children, community healthcare is also vital to support those who are cared for at home. Many families rely on the support of NHS community children’s nurses (CCN), NHS community paediatricians and hospice at home teams to deliver the 24/7 care their children need. This is particularly crucial when children are nearing the end of their lives, as recognised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).”
NICE has calculated that by investing £12.7million in implementing of their guideline on end of life care for infants, children and young people, non-cash savings worth £34.7million would be released back into the NHS in England.
Despite this, Together for Short Lives has found that while 93% of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England commission community children’s nursing (CCN) teams, just two-thirds (67%) commission them to provide care out of hours and at weekends. Shortages in CCNs and children’s hospice nurses are also barriers to children with life-limiting conditions receiving the care they need at home. Combined, these factors are restricting the choices that families can make about the care their children can receive, and threaten ministers’ ability to meet their end of life care choice commitment for children and young people. They also mean that too many children have to access expensive, unplanned emergency care out of hours and weekends if they reach crisis point.
Andy Fletcher continued:
“For the Prime Minister’s vision for community and primary healthcare to be realised, the government must use some of the funding announced today to develop a fully-funded children’s palliative care strategy which includes hospice and home-based care provided by the NHS and voluntary sector. It is vital to prioritise investment in social care alongside community health if we are to help keep people out of hospital.
Full details of the NHS Long Term Plan and how the £20.5billion NHS funding increase will be allocated, will be announced next month. Read our perspective on how some of the funding increase should be used to improve services for children with life-limiting conditions and their families.