National charity for seriously ill children, WellChild, announces nearly 40 per cent growth in demand this year for its nationwide network of WellChild Children’s Nurses. Compounded by increasing pressure on NHS and social care budgets and a children’s nursing workforce shortage, WellChild believes that society is in danger of failing a growing population of children and young people living with highly complex health needs. With adult care dominating media scrutiny and current public policy, WellChild is calling for the spotlight to fall on the needs of this seemingly forgotten group.
In addition to nurses to support families along their journey from hospital to home and ensure they are equipped to meet the exceptional health needs of their children once at home, WellChild also delivers home transformation projects and a range of services to support and empower families to care for their children safely at home.
In addition to a 37 per cent increase in the average WellChild Nurse caseload in the past 12 months, the charity‘s 2016/17 Impact Report reveals an 82 per cent increase in applications to its Helping Hands scheme which transforms spaces in family homes to make them safer, more accessible and sensory for children and young people living at home with exceptional health needs.
In an environment where data is woefully lacking, WellChild believes this dramatic increase in demand for its services, demonstrates an impending crisis in children’s healthcare across the UK, unless policy-makers and Government begin to prioritise and invest in children and young people with exceptional health needs.
WellChild CEO, Colin Dyer, said:
“We know that many children and young people with medically complex needs will spend months, sometimes years in hospital simply because there is no support enabling them to leave. Then once families are together at home their ability to access the round the clock care required to keep their children safe and prevent unnecessary hospital readmissions is constantly challenged by inconsistent and inadequate levels of support. This is why we developed the role of the WellChild Nurse. However, despite rapid growth in our team from three nurses eleven years ago to 35 now across all four countries of the UK, there are many families still without the support that is so desperately needed.
There is already a high profile public debate about the challenges facing adult social care but still little attention is given to children and young people living with serious and exceptional health needs. With the numbers growing every year, it is time for Government and society to wake up to this impending crisis before it is too late.”
WellChild is calling for urgent action to address the current children’s nursing workforce crisis including investment in recruitment, retention and training of children’s nurses and in the Children’s Community Nurse (CCNs) workforce specifically. The charity also wants to see greater investment in children and young people’s support services, including access to short break respite care.
The families supported by WellChild are facing momentous daily challenges for which they need adequate healthcare resources, training, and emotional support. In areas where there is no WellChild Nurse, families can face long waits in hospital which are both costly in terms of the financial burden on themselves and the NHS but also exert a high physical, emotional and financial toll. Through its WellChild Nurse programme, WellChild is offering policy and decision makers cost effective solutions and expert insight into issues such as the need for adequate training and respite, which can help sustain families in their roles as expert carers.
One family whose experience demonstrates what is possible when support is provided is that of four-year-old Maham Zaheer from Birmingham who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and needs help with all daily activities, 24 hour care, overnight ventilation and tubes for receiving food and medication. Maham spent the first three years of her life in hospital, but with help from her WellChild Nurse, Rachel Shanahan, and the completion of a dedicated home extension and bedroom makeover from WellChild, her family were finally able to bring her home for the first time. For this to happen Rachel has to coordinate large numbers of professionals to ensure that the right care package was in place and all her carers are properly trained to be competent and feel confident.
Her mother, Nomia Naz, said: “Having access to support from Rachel, 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 Maham home. Having someone there to support us along this very stressful and tiring journey has really helped to make things better.”