Children’s hospice faces ‘difficult decisions’ over respite care due to nursing shortage

An art therapy session at The Treehouse in Ipswich. PictureL ADRIAN CLARKE

An art therapy session at The Treehouse in Ipswich. PictureL ADRIAN CLARKE - Credit: Archant

A children’s hospice is being forced to make tough decisions over the levels of care it provides to some young people due to a chronic nursing shortage.

The Treehouse, run by EACH. Picture: ANDREW KAHUMBU

The Treehouse, run by EACH. Picture: ANDREW KAHUMBU - Credit: Archant

Although keen to stress it is able to provide all of the most important care it needs to, The Treehouse in Ipswich has to turn some lower need families away because of a current lack of staff.

The East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) centre – which opened in 2012 to help plug a gap in specialist care for youngsters with life-threatening conditions in Suffolk and Essex– is now launching a recruitment campaign to resolve the problem.

The modern and hi-tech facilities at the site in St Augustine’s Gardens, Ipswich have made a huge difference to youngsters’ lives, with families able to stay in adjacent rooms while children receive high-level care.

But with some patients at times requiring up to three staff depending on their specialist care needs, The Treehouse’s 30 whole time equivalent care roles can soon become swamped.

The Treehouse, run by EACH. Picture: ANDREW KAHUMBU

The Treehouse, run by EACH. Picture: ANDREW KAHUMBU - Credit: Archant


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The hospice, which costs £5,600 per day to run, estimates it needs about six more nurses to help provide the care it needs to the 116 young people it currently supports.

However it faces stiff competition from the NHS, which is also fighting to plug a recruitment shortfall.

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Nathan Muskett, service manager at The Treehouse, added the “double whammy” of a staffing shortage alongside increased demand for hospice care had made the situation even more challenging.

“We probably could fill every bedroom every night of the week,” he said.

“However due to staff resource, we have to focus on where to deliver that care.

“We have to focus on end of life care and we have to make difficult decisions.

“We might have to cancel respite care because we have to focus our care on children who require the most urgent attention.”

He added that there is a particular demand for hospice services during weekends and schools holidays.

The difficult nature of hospice work often makes nursing roles difficult to fill, he explained.

However EACH’s plan is to stress the diversity of the role during its upcoming recruitment campaign and the huge difference workers can make to families’ lives.

“We know we’ve been able to provide services that others would struggle to provide, giving families the best in the worst possible situation,” Mr Muskett said.

“We’ve been able to give families a huge boost.”

EACH also pledges to give staff first-class development and has facilities for training at its Treehouse site.

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