New Hope For Seriously Ill Children In Derbyshire

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Seriously ill children and young people across Derbyshire will need to spend less time in hospital, thanks to a new children’s nurse from national children’s charity WellChild. Derby’s first WellChild Nurse is being funded by a grant of £110,000 from Derbyshire Freemasons and will arrange and coordinate the care that children, young people and their families from the area need at home.

This week is the official launch of the new WellChild Nurse post, held by Nina Heighington, who will be helping reduce the time children and young people across Derby have to spend in hospital by providing emotional and practical support for the whole family.

Nina will be based at the Derbyshire Children’s Hospital as the WellChild Pathway Coordinator for Children with Medical Complexity. Through this unique post, she will support families by working closely with colleagues in the community, hospitals and other specialist centres to ensure the highest quality of care.

The grant from Derbyshire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

The WellChild Nurses’ programme was established to address a clear gap in the provision of care and support for children with long-term serious illness and complex conditions. In addition to keeping families together and benefitting a child’s development, it is often more cost efficient to care for a child at home than in hospital. Through this post, families will receive close support in the community from a nurse who can help parents gain confidence and guide them through difficult times.

Nina qualified in 2006 with a degree in children’s nursing from Birmingham University then worked on the general medical ward at Derbyshire Children’s hospital for 10 years where she gained a vast amount of experience caring for children with complex health needs and long term illness. More recently she has worked as a discharge coordinator at Derby ensuring discharge is quick and efficient, managing patient flow. Nina brings considerable expertise and a comprehensive understanding of the needs and challenges faced by the families with whom she will be working.

Nina commented: “I am proud of being a WellChild nurse and really looking forward to working with children with medical complexities and their families to ensure they receive the best possible care. This post allows for a more coordinated discharge and a central point of contact for questions and concerns before and once they get home. Supporting families through a traumatic event and putting services in place is the tip of the iceberg, working with families to ensure they can make the most out of the resources and achieve a good quality of life as they transition from hospital is where a WellChild nurse role can really make a difference.”

One child, who has already benefited from this extended nursing support from WellChild, is seven-month-old Jayden Thorpe from Derby who has a number of exceptional health needs following life-saving heart surgery just weeks after he was born. Jayden is currently fed by tube and requires oxygen to help him breathe. In his short life Jayden has received specialist support from four different hospitals and was unable to leave Derbyshire Children’s Hospital until his parents could find suitable housing to accommodate the medical equipment he needs. Nina helped the family with arrangements needed for Jayden to be medically safe and supported at home including securing a new home. Nina is a great source of support and comfort to Jayden’s parents, who know she is on the end of the phone for advice and practical support.

Jayden’s mother, Alice Thorpe, said:

“We are so delighted to finally be home together as a family. There have been several moments when we didn’t think Jayden would survive and so finally to be home together with our baby is wonderful. I can’t imagine what would have happened without having Nina to support us, fighting our corner and always available, particularly when I needed a chat during difficult times.”

Linda Partridge, WellChild’s Director of Programmes, said:

“We’re very grateful to Derbyshire Freemasons for their generous grant. We’ve worked to make sure that the essential service provided by WellChild Nurses in regions of the UK have a long-reaching impact. Our target is for every seriously ill child or young person to have access to a WellChild Nurse, and I am delighted that we have now been able to extend that support into Derby.”

Stephen Varley from Derbyshire Freemasons said:

“We are very pleased to be able to support the new Children’s Nurse in Derby. WellChild Nurses do an outstanding job supporting children and families and keeping the amount of time they spend in hospital to an absolute minimum. This is hugely important for the children and their families, but also helps hospitals to make the best use of their resources.”

Nina’s manager, Jo Watson, Lead Nurse at Derbyshire Children’s Hospital, said:

“As Nina has settled into her new role as our WellChild Nurse we have already seen enormous benefits for our children, young people and their families with complex needs. Our families now have a central resource to coordinate the care of their child and I have personally seen the positive impact this has had on individual families. We look forward to Nina and her WellChild role continuing to develop to improve the care we provide in partnership with our children, young people and their families with complex needs.”

WellChild’s pilot Children’s Nurse programme began in 2006, and its success has already resulted in the creation of posts in Ayrshire, Birmingham, Bristol, Belfast, Cambridge, Cardiff, Cumbria, Cornwall, East Sussex, Edinburgh, Hywel Dda in Wales, Kirklees, Liverpool, London, Leeds, Manchester, Oxford, Newcastle, Nottingham, Southampton, Sheffield, Walsall and West Sussex. Further posts will be funded during this year. WellChild continues to fundraise to add to its team so that these children across the United Kingdom will benefit from its services.

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