As part of Demelza’s five-year strategy we have made a commitment to increase our referrals, ensuring we are reaching the families that need our help the most. Excitingly, this now includes placing our expert staff in local hospitals, where they are perfectly positioned to spot families who could benefit from our support.

We caught up with Beth, one of our Children’s Palliative Care Nurses and Community Team Lead for Kent, to hear about her new role at The Tunbridge Wells Hospital and how she is helping families access our vital services earlier.

“I’ve been with Demelza for 15 years, and most recently I’ve been driving our efforts to bring care out into the community; this was really vital as we entered the pandemic, as we were often the only outside contact families had. Now that things are settling into a new ‘normal’ and Demelza are looking to the future, we’re really keen to support more families – and to provide that support as early as possible. That’s why I’m really excited about my new role at the Tunbridge Wells Hospital.

Since my induction in September, I’ve been working a shift once a week on the paediatric ward at the hospital, where I’ve been working directly with the families of children with complex needs and identifying those who would benefit from a referral to Demelza. A lot of families have no idea what a children’s hospice really offers; they assume we only provide end of life care, and they don’t want to pursue a referral any further because that’s not the kind of support they need or want. With my help, they can better understand the services that might be available to them at Demelza – like family support, symptom management, short breaks at our hospices in Kent or South East London, community care and more.

Once we’ve secured a referral for the family, I’m also able to serve as a familiar face to put them at ease throughout the process. Some families have very lengthy admissions, and I’ll see them every week at the hospital – so when they use Demelza, it’s not all totally new and alien to them. I’m really keen to break down those barriers and make it easy for them to start using our services, as early as possible.

I’m also privileged to provide support to the families known to Demelza while they’re still on the ward. Often hospital staff simply don’t have the time to provide one-to-one care due to a high number of admissions; when I visit, I’m able to provide some on-the-spot respite to those who need it. I might just sit with their child so mum and dad can pop out for an hour and get some coffee or a change of clothes, but it makes a world of difference and helps them understand what Demelza is really here for.

It's not all for families, either – the information sharing I’ve done with staff on the wards is so valuable. Even paediatric nurses like the ones I’m working with at the Tunbridge Wells Hospital don’t necessarily understand all that we offer, so being able to embed myself within their team and really put the pervasive myths about children’s hospice care to rest is a fantastic opportunity.

I’m only a few months into this pilot scheme, but I’ve already personally overseen more than five referrals and every week I support at least one family already known to Demelza on the ward. I’m confident that number will only continue to grow, and I’m hopeful we’ll have more opportunities to work with other hospitals in future. There are an estimated 8,000 families in the South East who could be accessing Demelza’s services, which is why I’m proud to be driving forward this important work in our community.”

Strategy 2022