National shortage of nurses and doctors threatens care for terminally ill children

30 October 2019

A growing shortage of skilled children’s palliative care doctors and nurses across England has reached crisis point, new report, A workforce in crisis: children’s palliative care in 2019, by children’s charity Together for Short Lives reveals. Demelza Hospice Care for Children is worried this is leading to terminally ill children and their families missing out on crucial specialist care and support.

Together for Short Lives and Demelza are calling on ministers to end the children’s palliative care workforce crisis by making sure that Health Education England urgently assess the gaps by including the demand from children’s hospices in its planning models. Together for Short Lives and Demelza are also calling on the Royal College of Nursing to invest £1 billion a year into nursing higher education and at least £360 million per year for nurses’ continuing professional development.

Demelza continue to support Together for Short Lives with the launch of their new report, which was formally presented to MPs and peers at Westminster last week (Tuesday 22 October). We are also encouraging the public to sign an open letter to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock asking him to make sure that these vital steps are taken.

Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives, said:

The NHS Long Term Plan identifies children’s palliative care is an important priority for the NHS. Yet the services that provide it are struggling with a dangerous mix of growing staff shortages and rising caseloads. Terminally ill children and their families are missing out on the round the clock care they need. They cannot wait any longer. It is imperative that ministers make sure the NHS People Plan sets out a programme to boost the number of professionals working with these children in the NHS and voluntary sector, in hospitals, children’s hospices and the community.”

Ryan Campbell, Chief Executive of Demelza Hospice Care for Children, added:

“We will be supporting Together for Short Lives in calling on ministers to urgently address the children’s palliative care workforce crisis.  Care teams at Demelza are committed, compassionate and hardworking, making a real difference to the lives of babies, children and young people with complex needs across Kent, East Sussex, and South East London and we would encourage palliative care professionals to consider working with us.  However, further investment is urgently needed in nursing higher education and continuing professional development to ensure the outstanding services we offer are maintained.”

Do you, or does someone you know, have what we need to continue providing specialist care and support for children with serious or terminal conditions? Please consider joining our care team - see available positions on our jobs page.

13 November 2019 update:

Further to our story from 30 October following the publication of the report from Together For Short Lives on the shortage of nurses in children's palliative care, our chief executive, Ryan Campbell, was on ITV Meridian last night, talking about the issue and how Demelza are working towards recruiting more nurses so we can continue offering an outstanding service to our children and families.  Watch the clip and read more here.