Date Published: 10 March 2009

RCN and WellChild call for more Community Children's Nurses

The Government must address the severe shortages of Community Children's nurses, according to The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and national children's charity, WellChild. A lack of these nurses means thousands of children spend unnecessary months in hospital when they could be cared for at home.

WellChild and the RCN have joined forces to launch the Better At Home campaign which is focused on improving care for children and young people with complex healthcare needs at home. Better At Home is calling for the Government to invest in community children's nurses to bridge the gap between hospital and community services for these vulnerable groups of children.

The campaign has received widespread support and currently over 80 MPs have pledged to support an Early Day Motion placed in support of the campaign. Speaking ahead of today's Parliamentary Reception, Dr. Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said:

Children can often spend month after month in hospital because there are not enough community children's nurses to care for them at home even though it's safe to do so. We want children to be cared for at home with their family around them wherever possible. The Government should invest more in community children's nurses and provide the necessary resources so that no child is stuck unnecessarily in hospital when they can be at home.

WellChild began to address these issues in 2006 through the creation of its team of WellChild nurses.

Kedge Martin, WellChild Chief Executive, added:

There is longstanding and widespread evidence that most children and their families benefit from being in hospital for the briefest time. Hospital can be emotionally, practically and financially disruptive to both the child and the family.

Since 2006, demand has been considerable and our nurses have made a remarkable impact on many lives, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. As advocates for this vulnerable group of children, WellChild is delighted to be joining with the RCN to call for a lasting and equitable solution, and for the opportunity of care at home to be provided to all families in the UK.

Antoinette Bewley, mother of Toni Bewley, who has received help from a specialist childrens nurse, said:

Two Christmases and three birthdays! That is how long Toni has been in hospital. It's been extremely hard on the whole family. Things would have been delayed even further if we had been left without any help to pull together everything that is needed to get her home. We're really grateful for all the help we're receiving.

Key findings of the Campaign's research include:

  • Young people are better cared for at home. Despite this, large numbers of children remain in hospital for months, even years, when they could be with their families.
  • Financial savings of caring for a child at home are between 140,000 and 470,000 per year for a child requiring long-term ventilation.
  • Care at home for a child with significant acquired brain injuries has savings as high as 490,000 per year.
  • In 140 Hospitals and Primary Care Trusts in England, there are 178 children in hospital for at least three months who could be cared for at home.

Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.
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