National fund for sick children would improve services and save money – Naughten

In Health, Young People by Denis Naughten



The establishment of a national fund for sick children would not only save money but more importantly deliver a better service for sick children with a life-limiting condition, TD Denis Naughten has claimed.

“Currently, the HSE is once again looking at its annual plan to slash budgets mid-year because it is failing to balance the books. Yet much of this is because it is failing in its primary role to manage health funding efficiently to benefit those who need care,” stated Denis Naughten.

“The failure to establish a single national fund for the estimated 1,400 children living with life-limiting conditions in Ireland is just one example of the HSE’s failure to manage, which is directly impacting on the care of sick children.”

Through parliamentary questions the HSE revealed that in the last available 12 month period the various Primary, Continuing & Community Care Offices throughout the country have spent €8.2m on the home care of children with life-limiting conditions at an average cost of €47,292 per child.

However, Denis Naughten believes that despite this spend the needs of children and families are simply not been met. “The service is totally been smothered by internal health politics leaving the likes of LauraLynn Children’s Hospice and Jack and Jill picking up the slack. An intervention which prevents these 1,400 children from having to spend their limited lives in hospital,” he explained.

“Every year about 350 children with a life-limiting condition die and a recent study by LauraLynn, Ireland’s Children’s Hospice, and the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF), estimated that up to €7.6m was needed to provide respite care for about 812 children – an average of less than €10,000 per child being required to support sick children.”

At present if a parent wishes to care for their child at home they are dependent on the funding drawn from the overall budget of their local Primary, Continuing, and Community Care (PCCC) office.

“Instead of this piecemeal approach if the HSE established a national home care budget for children with life-limiting conditions it would improve the service available to sick children and do so well within budget. This would be achieved by segregating the funding currently being provided by individual PCCCs and diverting it directly to a single national officer within the HSE who would have responsibility for its disbursement,” stated Denis Naughten.

“Amongst other benefits this proposal would ensure consistency of care for children throughout the country, drive efficiency, ensure that health professionals spend more time in the provision of front line services rather than being tied up with an advocacy role on behalf of an individual child, release expensive acute paediatric beds (costing €147k p/a), and ensure that children will not be forced to spend their remaining days in hospital because the local PCCC has exhausted its budget.

“This is just one example of where the failure by the HSE and Department of Health to actively manage its funds is leading to a reduced service at a far greater cost to the vulnerable who rely on it. And sadly, such non-management is not isolated.

“Rather than the annual autumn slash and burn management method operated throughout the health service over the years is it not time to take a different approach which can protect services while delivering efficiencies?” concluded Denis Naughten.