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Christopher’s opens sixth bed

March 27, 2024

Our purpose-built children’s hospice near Guildford has opened its sixth bed, marking a significant expansion in our capacity to support as many families as possible with planned and emergency respite and end-of-life care.

“By having a sixth bed open, it means we have more nights available for children and young people across the year,” explained Geraldine Sheedy, Head of Hospice Services.

Christopher’s is a homely environment for the children and their families. During respite stays, we aim to provide children and young people with a range of fun, sensory and therapeutic activities, while parents can choose to stay at the hospice to enjoy family time together or get a complete break. All the services we provide to families, including respite, symptom management and end-of-life-care are free of charge to families.

“The children we care for have such complex care needs that parents can’t just ask an untrained friend or family member to babysit. Whoever cares for the child, and to give parents any kind of time off, must be fully competent in their care. A lot of our parents say the only chance that they ever get time together as a couple is when their child is here for respite,” Geraldine explains. “All our nurses and carers are highly skilled and assessed as competent in caring for children who may be ventilated, have feeding tubes, catheters or complex medication regimes.”

We also offer symptom management stays to support a child or young person who is having difficult managing symptoms or who has changing symptoms. During their stay, the child will be monitored closely and assessed by the Specialist Paediatric Palliative Care Team daily, making it easier to make medication changes; any side effects and the effectiveness of medications are observed in a controlled manner within a safe and comfortable environment.

Support from the community and our donors has been instrumental in the recruitment of four extra nurses who were needed to sustain the additional bed around the clock.

“Opening additional beds is not easy – we have to ensure we have the right team in place to provide safe care, which takes time. Recruitment of nurses is a national issue, and we are competing with our local NHS hospitals for the best staff,” Geraldine explains.

“Caring for the children we support is a real privilege, but it can also be extremely tough at times, so it takes a very special person. We have employed nurses that come from a variety of background: A&E nurses, neo-natal nurses, nurses that have worked in paediatric intensive care units, nurses that worked in the community and nurses that come from general paediatric wards in hospitals. They all bring a varying range of skills and knowledge that they can build on once they come here and we can also learn from them.”

To ensure we can support as many families who need us as possible, and as part of our three-year strategy, we are aiming to further increase the number of beds available.

“Our main focus is to keep that sixth bed open, but in the background, we are also looking at how we can safely open all eight of the bedrooms at Christopher’s,” says Geraldine.

It costs £10 million a year to run Shooting Star Children’s Hospices. Just 30% of our funding comes from the government, so we rely on our supporters’ generosity to keep the service running.

By donating, you are helping us to recruit more staff which will allow us to increase our bed numbers and help more families. Please consider making a donation today.