The hospice carried out several highly publicised recruitment drives throughout 2016 and 2017, however insufficient numbers of trained paediatric nurses came forward for selection. As a result the charity was forced to suspend services at its Horizon West facility in Killadeas, Co Fermanagh. While Northern Ireland Hospice services continued in the community, the suspension of short breaks or ‘respite’ breaks was a devastating blow for families living outside of an acceptable travel commute to Belfast.
The charity has now added an extra bed at Horizon House, its children’s hospice in Newtonabbey, County Antrim. This additional bed will increase the capacity of specialist paediatric palliative care in Northern Ireland, increasing the available bed nights on offer for children with life-limiting conditions.
Since the suspension of services families from the region were immediately offered three-night respite breaks at Horizon House. However the reality of moving a child with a life-limiting condition, along with all their specialist equipment is a highly challenging feat, one which few can imagine. This challenge, compounded by a significant driving distance for a three-night stay, was quite simply untenable.
The addition of this extra bed night capacity means that the charity can now offer extended stays to families travelling significant distances, and therefore delivering a meaningful break to families so desperately in need of support.
Funded collaboratively by the charity and the Department of Health, the partnership signals the beginning of a comprehensive workforce planning effort between the Department of Health and the hospice, looking towards building capacity in the sector for the future.
Northern Ireland Hospice Chair Margaret Butler said:
“The suspension of services at Horizon West has been devastating for all concerned and a decision that was taken with deep regret by the Board of Trustees at Northern Ireland Hospice. We are all aware of the growing need for our services and therefore this situation is both frustrating and emotionally upsetting for all.”
“However, today, in a meaningful and positive step to help alleviate some of the pressure on affected families, we are delighted to announce that the Department of Health have stepped in to help fund the opening of an additional bed, resulting in increased capacity at our Children’s Hospice in Newtownabbey. This additional funding will allow us to shape our service model to best meet the needs of those families and children travelling significant distances to receive short breaks.”
“Furthermore, the Department of Health have committed to provide this additional £170,000 funding annually, allowing us to confidently and comprehensively plan our service delivery for the future, giving families that much needed confidence that we are here to support them through the challenges that lie ahead.”
“It is with caution, however, that I reiterate the importance of implementing proactive workforce planning from now – so as future generations will be able to be supported by a workforce that meets their needs. “
Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, said:
“The Department regrets that despite best efforts to recruit specialist nursing staff the children’s hospice has had to withdraw from providing services at Horizon West. We have worked closely with the hospice to prevent this happening but recognise that alternative arrangements must now be introduced for respite services to support these vulnerable children and their families.”
“We have therefore committed annual funding of £170k, on top of the Health and Social Care Board’s existing annual funding of £766K to the Hospice to provide an additional respite bed at Horizon House, Newtownabbey.”
“The Department is facing a number of competing worthy requests for investment in health and social care services. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to meet many of these requests given the pressures on the Health budget. However, we believe that there will be support across the community for giving priority to this investment in the children’s hospice.”
The Northern Ireland Hospice facility at Horizon West will now be formally deregistered as a healthcare facility with the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority, with suitable tenant arrangements being explored.
For more information visit Northern Ireland Hospice