New hope for seriously ill children in South London and South East England

Posted on the 19th July 2017

Parents of children and young people with very complex medical conditions in South London and South East England are receiving the extra support they need with the official launch this week of a new nursing role created by WellChild, the national charity for seriously ill children.

WellChild Children’s Nurse, Cat Jones, has begun her role as WellChild Complex Needs Nurse Specialist based at Variety Children’s hospital within King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Here she provides expert advice, and practical and emotional support for children with exceptional health needs and their families. Cat’s job is to ensure the process of getting these children home from hospital is as smooth as possible and that they are well supported once home.

Cat works closely with colleagues in the Paediatric Intensive Care unit (PICU) at Variety Children’s Hospital, King’s College Hospital (KCH). She also advocates for the family and coordinates the wide range of professionals providing the specialist support these children might need, at KCH, in other hospitals and centres and in the community.

Long-term hospitalisation can have a detrimental impact on a child’s development and wellbeing and on the whole of their family, practically and emotionally. This new WellChild Nurse post will help improve the lives of the growing number of families in the area whose children require special support with things like breathing and eating – many require a tracheostomy, need oxygen at home or receive food and medication directly through tubes into the body.

One child, who has already benefited from this extended nursing support from WellChild, is one-year-old Samuel Martin from Bromley. Samuel has chronic lung disease, is oxygen dependent and requires a tracheostomy through which he is ventilated 24 hours a day. In addition he has a Hickman Line and a gastrostomy for food and an array of daily medication. In order for Samuel to be discharged home, a large amount of equipment had to be ordered and training completed for both his family and a team of carers to provide round the clock support. Just a month after he celebrated his first birthday in hospital Samuel was finally discharged and is now very happily settled at home with his family.

Having access to support from Cat, our WellChild Nurse, has made a huge difference to us. She’s always available to answer our questions and concerns and has organised all the training and equipment that was needed to get Samuel home. Having someone there to support us along this very stressful and tiring journey has made a noticeable impact on the lives of everyone in our family.

Samuel's mum Katie
WellChild Nurse Cat with Samuel and his parents

WellChild Nurse Cat with Samuel and his parents

The new WellChild Children’s Nurse role will add specialist knowledge and understanding to the planning and management of the process for discharging children from PICU. As Cat works closely with these families and advocates for them, she also provides a central point to focus all the professionals on the particular needs and aspirations for each individual child they support. In addition she provides assistance and knowledge on issues such as social services, housing and ongoing care in the community.

Kathy Brennan, Matron PICU, Thomas Cook Children’s Critical Care, King’s College Hospital said:

“Our aim is that parents will experience a smoother journey through the discharge process and feel better supported and more confident to take their child home to be cared for in the community. We also hope that the extra specialist support provided by Cat in her role as WellChild Complex Needs Nurse Specialist, will mean that more children will be able to be discharged directly to their family home rather than via a hospice or other interim solution.

We recognize the importance of helping these children be at home as soon as it is medically appropriate, where they can have the same access to family and community life as other children and we are delighted to be working with WellChild to bring these benefits to many more families.”

Cat brings a wealth of relevant experience to this role. She started her career on a busy paediatric ward at a general hospital and then on a London Paediatric Critical Care Unit and more recently worked in the community as an Outreach Nurse for Children with Complex Needs.

Speaking about her new role Cat said:

Caring for a child with complex needs is incredibly challenging and the discharge process in particular can generate many obstacles and barriers to overcome. I’m really looking forward to working closely with the children and families and hope that my experience which spans critical care in hospital and working with these children in the community will help me to develop the discharge process further and facilitate as smooth a transition home as is possible for children and their families.

WellChild Nurse Cat

WellChild Nurses’ programme was established to address a clear gap in the provision of care and support for children with long-term serious illness and complex conditions. In addition to keeping families together and benefitting a child’s development, it is often more cost efficient to care for a child at home than in hospital.

WellChild’s pilot Children’s Nurse programme began in 2006, and its success has already resulted in the creation of posts in Ayrshire, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Cumbria, Cornwall, East Sussex, Edinburgh, Hywel Dda in Wales, Kirklees, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Southampton, Walsall and West Sussex.  Further new posts will be launched during this year.

Linda Partridge, WellChild’s Director of Programmes, said: “The WellChild Children’s Nurse Programme exists to meet the growing need for help for the thousands of children, young people and families across the UK who lack the necessary support in their transition from hospital to home. We have worked to make sure that the essential service provided by our growing network of WellChild Children’s Nurses has a long-reaching impact.

Our target is for every seriously ill child or young person to have access to a WellChild Children’s Nurse, and I am delighted that we have now been able to extend that support to the families cared for at the Variety Children’s Hospital with King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.”

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