Health and Social Care professionals representing statutory and voluntary agencies were in attendance and welcomed the findings.
The report evaluates the impact, outcomes and added value that ‘step down’ care provides to children, families, health and social care providers, and commissioners in a children’s hospice setting and puts forward six recommendations which centre on the need for a holistic care approach.
It ascertains that children who are considered ‘medically stable’ should not remain in an acute hospital setting for any longer than is clinically necessary and explores the potential for children’s hospice’s to provide an alternate setting for care within a ‘step down’ model.
What is ‘step down’ care?
‘Step down’ care is the name given to a bespoke programme of care developed by the children’s hospice.
It enables a child whose condition is stable to transfer from an acute hospital environment to the more ‘home-like’ hospice setting. The service was developed to meet the care needs of a number of children with complex health requirements who are likely to experience prolonged admission to hospital, often extending for many months or years while preparations for care are made at home.
For decades, small numbers of children with the most complex healthcare needs have remained in hospital for long periods. While advances in drugs and medical management alongside technological developments have made home care possible, transfer to home often remains protracted.
Researcher, Sharon McCloskey said:
“The insights and experiences of parents and professionals confirm that this service is highly valued and greatly enhances the quality of the child’s life and family’s life.The added benefits must now be considered and plans made to ensure that all children and families who could benefit from step down care in this setting have the opportunity to do so.”
‘Getting Home’, is a collaborative research study between Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice and Queens University Belfast, funded with support from the Roald Dahl Marvellous Children’s Charity, the Burdett Trust for Nursing, Queens University and the RCN Foundation.
The report is available to download from the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice website.