New post to improve transition for seriously ill young people in Cumbria

WellChild is funding a new WellChild Children’s Nurse post at the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

By Matt James · September 25, 2019

Cumbria Nurse Launch

WellChild is funding a new WellChild Children’s Nurse post at the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. This week is the official launch of the new post, held by Alison Shepherd, which was made possible through a grant from an international philanthropic foundation. Alison will be helping children and young people with long term and complex health needs across Cumbria by improving access to high quality care and training and empowering them and their families along the journey to adulthood.

As the WellChild Specialist Transition Nurse, Alison will be forging close links with colleagues in community teams across health, social care and education. She provides specialist advice and training to professionals and families as they work together to improve the experiences of young people with complex health needs through the transition from children’s services. Through this unique new post, Alison will champion the voice of these young people and their families so they can receive the high quality services they need.

Prior to this post Alison worked as Children’s Community Nursing Clinical Lead for children with complex health needs in the Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde area. She therefore brings considerable expertise and a comprehensive understanding of the needs and challenges faced by the families with whom she will be working.

Alison commented: “I am passionate about improving and promoting equality for children and young people with complex health needs and their families. I was delighted to take up this position with WellChild and be part of this invaluable network of specialist nurses.

I have had the privilege of supporting many inspiring children, young people and their families on their journey. I will forever be thankful to them for allowing me to be part of their lives.

"I believe this role will have a major impact on ensuring that these young people and their families have high quality care and support because it enables me to advise and coordinate the work of the diverse range of teams that can be engaged in supporting them.”

WellChild Nurse Alison

The 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. Preparing for adulthood is an exciting time for young people but can be extremely challenging for young people with complex health needs and their families. One young person who is set to benefit from the extended support WellChild has enabled is 18-year-old Cameron Mitchell, from Carlisle who has complex learning difficulties and health needs. Cameron uses a wheelchair, has had many operations on his spine and hips and is fed through a tube in his stomach. Cameron’s Community Children’s Nurse, Abi Barr is working closely with Alison as he approaches the time when he will be supported by adult services.

His mother Nicola Curlow is very concerned about finding respite care for Cameron when he is an adult. She said: “In addition to his learning difficulties, Cameron’s health needs are complex and this may rule him out of respite support currently available to him as an adult. With the right training for staff things could be different. I am hopeful that the new WellChild Nurse post will be able to influence changes that will make a massive difference to Cameron and our whole family.”

Lyn Moore, assistant director of nursing and young people at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“I am absolutely delighted to be continuing our collaboration with WellChild and particularly to be able to focus on transition for our young people. Our families have been telling us for a long time that preparing for adulthood with the right care and support is challenging so to have Alison in post and with access to the networks and support that WellChild bring is a fantastic opportunity to change the experience for families going forward.”

WellChild Trustee and Parent Ambassador, Craig Hatch from Cockermouth welcomes this new post in Cumbria having experienced the challenges of transitioning his own son Fraser into adult services. Fraser (21) was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a result of birth asphyxia. Fraser left Mayfield School in Whitehaven at the age of 19. This was a difficult time for him and his family as Fraser faced many changes involving services for health, education and social services, which were not always well connected.

Craig said: It would have made a big positive impact on our family to have had someone like Alison in place helping young people and their families through the minefield that is transition. With this new WellChild role, I am confident transition will be a better experience for other families like ours in Cumbria.”

Pictured left to right: WellChild Trustee and Parent Ambassador Craig Hatch, WellChild Nurse Alison Shepherd, 14-year-old patient Alesha, and WellChild’s Director of Programmes Tara Parker.

WellChild’s Children’s Nurse programme began in 2006, and its success has already resulted in the creation of over 40 nurse posts across the UK, with further posts being funded during this year.

Tara Parker, WellChild’s Director of Programmes, said: “We have worked to make sure that the essential service now provided by WellChild Children’s Nurses in regions of the UK have a long-reaching impact. Our target is for every seriously ill child or young person to have access to a WellChild Children’s Nurse. I am delighted that we have now been able to extend that support into Cumbria through this unique role which brings expert guidance and coordination to families as they face one of the most challenging periods in their child’s life.”