Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: Bringing expertise from leading London hospitals direct to children’s homes
You may know ellenor as a local Kent charity – but it might be a surprise to discover that much of the care we deliver to children in their own homes is via a joint working partnership model with leading London hospitals. Rebecca Scalzo, ellenor’s Head of Children’s Services, explains how this novel approach makes life easier for children and their families.
Bringing expertise from London hospitals direct to children in their own homes is an under-recognised service that forms the foundation of care provided by ellenor. Thanks to this partnership approach, many children under ellenor’s care in Kent can make fewer journeys and spend less time attending hospitals in London for their appointments.
What this means for children and their families, explains Rebecca Scalzo, Head of Children’s Services at ellenor: “They can spend more time at home and have their routine monitoring done in the community. This helps them to maintain some form of normal life, such as going to school and seeing friends.”
ellenor works in partnership with local hospitals as well as four tertiary care hospitals in London: Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, the Royal Marsden Hospital, the Evelina Children’s Hospital and University College London Hospital. Although children will have to attend their main appointments with consultants at these hospitals, community care and monitoring allows families to reduce the time spent travelling to London for treatment that can be delivered at home.
It’s an area of ellenor’s work that has increased over the years, supporting children with a cancer diagnosis or who have long-term complex health needs. This has required the organisation’s palliative care team to expand. At least 9 out of 10 children ellenor provide community care for have at one or more aspects of their care managed through a London hospital.
This hand-in-hand care ensures ellenor can help meet the needs of those children – and their families – at a local level but with the benefit of leading expertise. For families, there is a cost saving at not having to travel to and from London. This also translates into a saving for the NHS too.
Where this partnership approach really makes a difference for children and their families is when they reach the end of their lives, says Rebecca. “It just gives the families more choice. We get very positive feedback from families where they have wanted their child to remain at home at end of life. It makes an enormous difference for those families who don't want to spend days and days in hospital at the end of life and want to be together as a family. As a children's hospice, palliative care generally is always about giving parents a choice about place of death. It’s so important.”
There are also benefits for ellenor staff too as this joint working approach facilitates staff development in improving skills and knowledge from world-leading experts.
For Rebecca, the biggest difference a joint-working partnership offers is to ease the burden on families. It is not always easy to access wider support services from London centres but ellenor is able to offer a range of psycho social support for the whole family which is delivered locally.
“The play therapy, music therapy and counselling we offer may be difficult to access within most hospitals or general community services. We provide care for the family’s emotional wellbeing and psycho social needs, which is not always readily available through the NHS.” adds Rebecca.
We want to continue being there for children living with cancer. Please donate whatever you can towards our vital work: www.ellenor.org/donate