Plan To Boost Care For Terminally-ill Children

Ministers are promising services for dying children in England will be transformed by the first-ever palliative care strategy.

The plans comes after a critical inquiry last year which said children with life-threatening and life-limiting illnesses were being let down.

The government has called on councils and the NHS to work together to improve and expand services.

Ministers want to see families given access to 24-hour community teams.

The government has also announced the sector will be getting £10m a year funding for two years from 2009.

This represents a £1m rise on the £9m they are currently getting.

Most palliative care services are provided by charities, which get about a fifth of their funding from government with the rest coming from donations.

Charities believe the success of the strategy will rest on good relationships developing with local NHS trusts and councils.

There are more than 20,000 children and young people in the country requiring specialist care because of either life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, or life-limiting degenerative disorders.

Palliative care for children, as for adults, is either carried out at home with the support of community nurses, in hospices or in hospital

An inquiry last year, commissioned by the government and produced by experts in the field, found that parents were left frustrated and exhausted by the current “patchy” system.

It said families of terminally-ill children have to fight for support and often fall through the gap between social services and the NHS.

The government’s strategy aims to address these problems by encouraging the NHS, councils and voluntary sector to develop networks to improve the co-ordination of services.

It said parents should be given a choice of where their children are cared for and an expansion of community teams, of nurses and palliative care specialists, was needed in particular.

The strategy said families should have 24-hours access to the teams, which are essential in allowing parents to keep their children at home.

Care services minister Ivan Lewis said: “Everything is in place for us to start transforming these vital services.

“There is much to do and we must not fail the families who live with these challenging situations every day of their lives.”

Barbara Gelb, chief executive of the Association of Children’s Hospices, said the strategy was “tremendous news”.

“The £20m funding gives children’s hospice services a further two years’ breathing space to engage with local health and social care commissioners to gain secure, long-term funding.”