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NI Hospice confirms suspension of children ís care services at Horizon West

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Despite relentless efforts in recent months, Northern Ireland Hospice has confirmed that the charity has been forced to formally suspend children's hospice care services at its 'Horizon West' Children's Hospice in Killadeas, Co Fermanagh, due to a shortage of nurses.

After more than eight separate, highly publicised recruitment drives by Hospice, insufficient numbers of trained paediatric nurses have come forward for selection. Subsequently, the organisation has had to suspend services while it explores future options.

Northern Ireland Hospice chief executive, Heather Weir, said: "It is with deep regret that I, on behalf of Northern Ireland Hospice, cannot bring better news concerning the delivery of Children's Hospice services at Horizon West at this time.

"We at Hospice are saddened and disappointed that the shortage and availability of nurses has impeded our ability to deliver care at Horizon West.

The safety of children in our care remains paramount and without an appropriately trained and competent care team, we cannot deliver short breaks or day care in this region.

"I do, however, wish to confirm that this regretful situation has not and will not impact on the continuation of both adult and children's Community Hospice Care which is delivered across the western region.

Our team of Northern Ireland Hospice Community Nurses will continue to provide palliative and end of life care to all those who need our support in patients' own homes, working in partnership with other healthcare professionals to deliver high quality, comprehensive care to those with life-limiting and terminal conditions.

"We wish to express our gratitude to our passionate support groups, fundraisers and the public for their continued support for the wider care services provided in the local community and at hospice."


The Board of Trustees at Northern Ireland Hospice has determined that no further decisions will be taken regarding Horizon West while exploratory partnership conversations are ongoing.

It is expected that an update will be available in early 2018.

Northern Ireland Hospice has also confirmed that children currently in receipt of Hospice care from the Co Fermanagh region will continue to receive supported family short breaks at 'Horizon House' Children's Hospice in Newtownabbey, County Antrim. Indeed, Northern Ireland Hospice is as busy as ever, caring for more than 3,500 children and adults across the province.


The charity continues to depend on public support to deliver the highest quality palliative care to local people when they need it.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA., Rosemary Barton, said it is important that the Department of Health "provides help and assistance to the org anisation".

She said: "It was with profound sadness that I learn of the staffing difficulties being encountered by Horizon West. This is an organisation and facility that gives much needed support in a variety of ways for ill and vulnerable children and adults, but also providing assistance for the wider family structures.

"I understand the organisation is having difficulties recruiting staff to work with individuals that require the care provided by Horizon West. It is important that the Department of Health provide help and assistance to the organisation to ensure they provide the structures required for these patients and their families."

A spokesperson for the Deparment of Health explained that the Department had worked closely with the Children's Hospice management team to support the development of services by the hospice.

"This has included over the past two years administering a £1m grant to the Hospice from the previous Executive's Delivering Social Change grant scheme, which included support for the development of nursing services.


The Department believes that the Hospice's management team has made every effort to recruit paediatric nurses, but due to the shortage of nurses in this specialist healthcare area this has not proved possible.


The Department stands ready to discuss further with the Hospice the additional support that might be required to provide alternative respite services for families from the western area."


The spokesperson added that a decision on the long-term future of Horizon West would be made after Christmas.

"The Department was notified by the NI Children's Hospice on November 8 that it was continuing to experience difficulty in recruiting paediatric nurses to work in Horizon West and a decision would be made by the Hospice after Christmas on the long-term future of Horizon West."

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