An average of 10% of nursing posts within voluntary children’s palliative care organisations are currently vacant – the NHS nurse vacancy rate is only 7%.
In a survey conducted by Together for Short Lives, two thirds of voluntary sector services reported that a shortage in nurses is forcing them to reduce the care they can offer to families – for example by closing beds.
The annual survey also shows that the negative impact on services is increasing year on year. In 2014 43% of respondents said they had reduced services as a result of vacancies, by 2015 this had increased to 65%.
“The number of children who may need palliative care is rising yet children’s palliative care is facing a shortage of qualified nurses to provide care and support for this most vulnerable group of people,” explained Barbara Gelb, CEO of Together for Short Lives.
“It’s worrying that over a quarter of nurses at voluntary sector children’s palliative care providers are over 50 years, with many able to retire at 55; it’s vital we increase the number of qualified children’s palliative care nurses to bridge this care gap and future-proof care provision for seriously ill children and families.
“We need to encourage more nurses to join a brilliantly committed, intelligent and hard working group of children’s palliative care nurses who are dedicating their skills and passion to caring for and supporting children, young people and their families.”
In order to encourage more nurses to work in children’s palliative care, Together for Short Lives has today launched the You Can Be That Nurse campaign.
As part of the campaign, a new film has been produced, featuring three nurses at different stages of their career. The film aims to tackle some of the taboos around children’s palliative care by highlighting how rewarding these nursing roles can be.
The charity is also asking the UK’s governments and healthcare workforce planners to take action to bring down the average nursing vacancy rate among voluntary sector children’s palliative care organisations. The charity is also calling on the Council of Deans to encourage university nurse training faculties to adopt Together for Short Lives recognised best practice curricula for children’s palliative care nurse training.
Gillian Dickson, workforce and development manager at Together for Short Lives, said: “Our You Can Be That Nurse campaign is about shining a light on the experiences of those working in this field and the wonderful opportunity a nursing career in this sector can bring.
“The nurses I meet working in children’s palliative care are extraordinary people. The varied nature of their role and the opportunity to provide holistic care to the child and their family make this one of the most rewarding roles in nursing.
“You can join them. You can be that nurse.”