Vital support for seriously ill children in Gloucestershire
Seriously ill children and their families in Gloucestershire are receiving vital support on their journey home from hospital thanks to the work of WellChild Children’s Nurse Nina Griffiths.
WellChild, the Cheltenham based national charity for seriously ill children, is funding the WellChild Children’s Nurse post at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust. The post was made possible through a grant from the Charles Irving Charitable Trust. Nina is hard at work helping children and young people in the Gloucestershire area.
Nina is based at Springbank Community Resource Centre. Through her unique post, she supports families by working closely with colleagues in the community, hospitals and other specialist centres to ensure the highest quality of care. As the WellChild Children’s Nurse she is helping to reduce the time children have to spend in hospital by arranging and coordinating the care they need at home and providing specialist advice as well as emotional and other practical support for the whole family.
The WellChild Nurse posts seeks to support families at home to minimise the number of times they have to be admitted into hospital which can be upsetting for families. Through this post they receive close support in the community from a nurse who can help parents gain in confidence and guide them through difficult times.
Prior to this post Nina began her career as a Staff Nurse at Birmingham Children’s Hospital on the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. Later she worked for Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust as a health visitor in Gloucester and was also a bank staff nurse on the children’s ward at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. Whilst employed as a health visitor, Nina gained a Master of Science in Primary Health Care and completed the Mary Seacole programme with the NHS Leadership Academy. She therefore brings considerable expertise and a comprehensive understanding of the needs and challenges faced by the families with whom she will be working.
Nina commented: “As a WellChild Nurse I have the opportunity to support children with exceptional health needs and their families. Caring for a child with complex needs is incredibly challenging with many obstacles and barriers to overcome. This unique role allows me to have the flexibility to meet the individual needs of each child and family as they require. I hope that being a WellChild Nurse will allow me to make a very positive difference to these families on what is an extremely difficult journey. I really enjoy working closely with the children and families and I am enjoying the different challenges this new role brings.”
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. 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. One child who is benefitting from the extended support WellChild has already enabled is Grace Widdicombe, aged 17, who has an undiagnosed genetic condition. She is tube fed and has epilepsy, faltering growth, visual impairment and other serious conditions.
Her mother Helen White said: “A few years ago I found out about WellChild Family Tree and joined the Facebook group. This has been an invaluable place for support from other parents who may not have answers but do have the understanding of what it feels like to have a child with complex care needs. I then became a Parent Ambassador for our local area, bringing awareness and sharing my experiences of the support I have received from WellChild.
“In 2019 we started receiving support from our WellChild Nurse Nina who has been a godsend. It has been a particularly difficult year with Grace’s health. During this time Nina was my rock, knowing she was at the end of the phone should I need her for advice or just someone to vent at. She would visit even when we were moved to Bristol Children’s Hospital.
“WellChild have been instrumental in helping me realise I am not alone in the world of special needs and complex care.”
Nina’s manager, Matthew Anderson, Head of Children’s Community Nursing and Children’s Complex Care, said: “The WellChild Nurse post has been well promoted in the county and consequently the number of children and young people referred continues to rise. This has enabled the WellChild Nurse to continue to have a wide ranging, positive impact with families across the county.
“The WellChild Nurse has been able to support families with the co-ordination of care and assisting with the negotiation and problem solving which is required when working with children, young people and families with complex needs. The WellChild Nurse is also working on supporting children as they move into adult services to ensure the best care possible continues into adulthood, this will hopefully make a positive difference to long term outcomes.”
"I hope that being a WellChild Nurse will allow me to make a very positive difference to these families on what is an extremely difficult journey. I really enjoy working closely with the children and families and I am enjoying the different challenges this new role brings."
WellChild’s Children’s Nurse programme began in 2006, and its success has already resulted in the creation of 46 posts across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Further posts will be 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, and I am delighted that we have now been able to extend that support into Gloucestershire. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of The Charles Irving Charitable Trust who are fully funding Nina’s first three years in post.”
Helen Ford, Lead Commissioner at NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group which submitted the bid to fund the post, said: “Improving the way care is coordinated and provided to children with complex and challenging needs is a top priority for us in Gloucestershire, and we are delighted to have secured funding for this post over a three year period. Working across health, social care and education services, the nurse will support parents in various ways, such as training them how to use equipment such as feeding tubes and arranging respite care.”
Jacky Lane, of the Charles Irving Charitable Trust said: “The Trustees were extremely pleased to be able to support the appointment of a WellChild Nurse for Gloucestershire. We are sure this will make a huge difference to the lives of severely ill children and their families and wish the WellChild Nurse every success in her appointment.”