Background It is estimated that 1/29 children in the UK will experience parental death. Without support, there are profound long-term implications for the child’s wellbeing. Our experience as a Hospital Specialist Palliative Care Team (in an acute adult hospital in the Northwest of England) was that children of parents with life-limiting illness were commonly not involved in important conversations about the healthcare needs of their parents, including the dying phase. Improving systems to proactively support bereaved children can improve their long-term wellbeing.
Aim To develop a new process with the Paediatric Liaison Service (PLS) to improve support for children with ill parents.
Methods We conducted a literature review and several meetings with senior nurses and the safeguarding team to agree the role of the Paediatric Liaison Service, identify referral criteria and clarify legal frameworks. We met with managers of a local charity focussing on the needs of young carers. We developed and implemented a hospital-wide digital referral form, to enable staff to refer children and families to the Paediatric Liaison Service. We developed the process for the Paediatric Liaison Service to notify school nurses of pupils who required support. We conducted staff education sessions to promote the service and gather feedback.
Results Our digital referral form is now operational, and we are improving this continually based on feedback. We received 8 referrals to the Paediatric Liaison Service in the first 3 months of launching the service. We have received positive feedback from school nurses who are grateful to be informed about pupils who are bereaved, as this helps them to provide support.
Conclusion Our new Paediatric Liaison Service has streamlined the referral process, which has improved the collaborative support we can provide to bereaved children. We plan further evaluation to explore how we can better integrate with other voluntary and community settings (e.g., hospice, charities, school health professionals).
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