More children’s nurses are needed at an Essex hospice to help meet a demand for more urgent and complex care. Havens Hospices provides palliative and supportive care from birth, either within Little Havens in Thundersley or in the family home. During Children’s Hospice Week (21st-25th June), the charity is highlighting the need for more paediatric nurses to join its team as Covid restrictions lift and families feel comfortable having hands-on care once again.
The charity has five vacancies for nurses, plus opportunities for healthcare support staff and bank nursing to help support children in the hospice, Little Havens, or in the family home through either respite or end of life care. The shortage of skilled children’s palliative care nurses across England has been highlighted by the national charity Together for Short Lives in a 2019 report.
Daisy Palmer from Langdon Hills has been receiving support from Havens Hospices for eight years. The 17 year old has two rare conditions that cause many other complications and needs to receive her nutrition and medication into her veins, through a system called TPN (total parenteral nutrition). She has a Hickman line, a tube that goes directly into her heart. This level of medical intervention brings with it many risks such as infections and serious bleeding.
When Daisy is connected to these machines for up to 24 hours a day, mum Tracy must be present as the process is completely unique to Daisy and nurses need an intensive level of experience and specific training on Daisy’s system to be able to do this. This means that, at present, Daisy isn’t benefiting from the overnight respite that the charity could offer. Staff are currently being trained to undertake this complex clinical procedure, but the charity needs more qualified nurses to ensure there is always someone on shift with these skills.
Tracy gave up work as a Teaching Assistant in 2008 to be Daisy’s full time carer.
“The theme of Children’s Hospice Week this year is ‘Pushed to the limits’ which is something parents like me can completely identify with. In 17 years, I haven’t had a break. There isn’t anywhere or anyone at the moment who can provide the level of care that Daisy needs, only certain hospitals who intervene when there’s an emergency.”
Daisy had respite in the home once a month from Havens Hospices and Tracy stayed in the house in case she’s needed for the medical procedures. During Covid, this care shifted online because Daisy has been shielding.
“We are so grateful for the care that Havens Hospices can provide and during Covid we’ve actually benefited from their adaptations in services with more online therapies and activities. We’ve had a lot of contact from the team during lockdown. I have a great relationship with my Havens Hospices carer Amanda. We spend our time together chatting, doing art and playing games. She can also signpost me and Mum if we are struggling with something.”
The family is supported by the Havens Hospices Wellbeing Team, too. Its Creative Therapist supports Daisy through art workshops. Tracy has also benefited from complementary therapy offered by the charity.
Tracy continues, “But as the world returns to normal, nothing really changes for us unless somewhere like Little Havens has the right qualified nurses who can undergo training for these type of rare and complex conditions so there is a consistent level of care for young people like Daisy.
“Havens Hospices really are trying their hardest to help us, and during Covid they arranged for one of the Senior Nurses to sit with Daisy whilst I attended my mother-in-law’s funeral. Whilst she had the relevant training if there was an emergency, I still needed to be back in time to change over Daisy’s machines. That demonstrates that the charity is doing everything to help in any way they can as Daisy’s needed are changing. We’re as frustrated as they are – we know the charity wants to meet the needs of all the children who qualify for their care.”
Ellie Miller is the Director of Care at Havens Hospices, and is leading the recruitment drive to encourage more nursing staff to consider a career in hospice care. She says, “Recruitment of children’s nurses is an issue which affects all healthcare providers and is not unique to Havens Hospices. Staff have been trained to deliver total parenteral nutrition and there is a further level of training required which is about the individual needs of each child and young person. The charity is dedicated to staff’s personal development and ensuring professional practices and qualifications are upheld. As we are an all-age palliative care provider, our nursing staff have extensive training opportunities including access to apprenticeships, registered nurse training and academic and clinical courses. To support this, we have a Paediatric Practice Development Facilitator and a dedicated Learning and Development Team.”
Other benefits include the retention of an existing NHS pension, salaries in line with Agenda for Change, out-of-hours enhancements, staff wellbeing packages and ample free parking.
“Caring for children and young people with complex or incurable conditions is incredibly rewarding. By working at Havens Hospices, we can give the gift of time to patients and families, creating memories within a friendly and supportive organisation.”
To find out more about nursing opportunities at Havens Hospices, visit www.havenshospices.org.uk/nurses
Photo: Daisy having a Zoom respite break with her Little Havens Hospice at Home carer Amanda
About Havens Hospices:
Havens Hospices provides palliative nursing and supportive care to adults, young people and children living with complex or incurable conditions across Essex.
Our specialist Care Teams can support them and their family living throughout illness, death and bereavement, in the comfort of their own home and through our hospice services, Fair Havens, The J’s and Little Havens.
We focus on their quality of life, caring for individual physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs.
Havens Hospices is a registered charity – not part of the NHS – and receives limited government funding.
We don’t charge a penny for any of our care services. Our hospice care can only exist because of the support and generosity of the community. Together, we’re ‘Making every day count’
Together for Short Live
Together for Short Lives’ research shows there’s a growing shortage of skilled children’s palliative care doctors and nurses across England. It is leading to seriously ill children and their families missing out on crucial out of hours care and vital short respite breaks.
Our report: A workforce in crisis: children’s palliative care in 2019, shows a children’s palliative care workforce at breaking point:
- There are just 15 children’s palliative care consultants in the UK – the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) suggests there should be 40-60.
- The nursing vacancy rate in children’s hospices is growing, with posts increasingly difficult to fill. On average, children’s hospices told Together for Short Lives that they had a vacancy rate of 12.2%. This is higher than the overall NHS nursing vacancy rate of 11%, which is also worryingly high. Two thirds (67%) of children’s hospice nursing posts remain vacant for three months or more.
- There are too few skilled children’s nurses to fill vacant posts in the NHS and children’s hospices. Over half (58%) of children’s hospices cite an overall lack of children’s nurses as a significant factor in the vacancy rates they are experiencing.
- There are too few community children’s nurses (CCNs) employed by the NHS: safe staffing levels recommended by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) suggest there should be around 5,500 CCNs in England. In fact, the NHS in England employs just 574.
- There are shortages among other important health and care professionals: the vacancy rate for allied health professionals (AHPs, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and psychological therapists) is 14%. In 2018, the overall vacancy rate for children and family social workers in England was 16%.