A national charity for seriously ill children has warned of a growing crisis in paediatric healthcare as demand for its specialist nursing services escalates.
WellChild said it believed that society was in “danger of failing” a growing population of children and young people living with highly complex health needs.
“There are many families still without the support that is so desperately needed”
The charity revealed today that there had been a nearly 40% growth in demand this year for its nationwide network of children’s nurses.
This was compounded by increasing pressure on NHS and social care budgets and a children’s nursing workforce shortage, it noted its 2017 Impact Report.
According to its report, published today, it has seen a 37% increase in the average WellChild nurse caseload in the past 12 months and an 82% increase in applications to its Helping Hands scheme.
The scheme transforms spaces in family homes to make them safer, more accessible and sensory for children and young people living at home with exceptional health needs.
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WellChild said it believed the “dramatic” increase in demand for its services, demonstrated an impending crisis in children’s healthcare across the UK.
Urgent action was needed to address the current children’s nursing workforce crisis, including investment in recruitment, retention and training, it said.
This investment was specifically needed in building the children’s community nurse workforce, said the charity.
The charity also said it wanted to see greater investment in children and young people’s support services, including access to short break respite care.
In areas where no WellChild nurse was in place, families could face long hospital waits that were costly for the NHS and also “exert a high physical, emotional and financial toll” on those involved.
The charity called on policy-makers and the government to begin to prioritise and invest in children and young people with exceptional health needs.
With adult care dominating media scrutiny and current public policy, WellChild said it was calling for the spotlight to fall on the needs of children, which it described as a “seemingly forgotten group”.
Crisis warning as demand for children’s nursing escalates
WellChild chief executive Colin Dyer said: “We know that many children and young people with medically complex needs will spend months, sometimes years in hospital simply because there is no support enabling them to leave.
“Then once families are together at home their ability to access the round the clock care required to keep their children safe and prevent unnecessary hospital readmissions is constantly challenged by inconsistent and inadequate levels of support,” he said.
“This is why we developed the role of the WellChild nurse,” he said. “However, despite rapid growth in our team from three nurses eleven years ago to 35 now across all four countries of the UK, there are many families still without the support that is so desperately needed.”
He added that, while there was a public debate on the challenges facing adult social care, “little attention” was given to children and young people “living with serious and exceptional health needs”.
“With the numbers growing every year, it is time for government and society to wake up to this impending crisis before it is too late,” said Mr Dyer.