Richard House Children’s Hospice, the capital’s first children’s hospice is celebrating Hospice Care Week, after a turbulent year of more pandemic uncertainty.

The unprecedented nature of the pandemic has meant that over the past 18 months the hospice encountered many challenges including the suspension of key services, closure of charity shops, postponement of challenge events and more. Despite this, the hospice has managed to recommence services in a "COVID-safe" way, but the question is for how long.

The pandemic has taken its toll on hospice staff and service users, life-limited children and their families, who are worst affected by the highest rates of COVID-19 in the whole of the UK. Richard House has had to adapt key services in order to continue providing quality palliative care. Richard House Nurse, Elaine Reid said:

“We put a number of things in place to ensure everyone’s safety, isolating children and their parents in the side bedroom where necessary. We couldn’t have done it without the kindness and support we received from such generous donors. The donation of PPE equipment including masks, gloves, aprons face shields and scrubs meant that we were able to protect ourselves and others when supplies from NHS were running low as they had to share all the PPE with other hospices and hospitals across the country.

“The care team really pulled together and we have done our best to provide the best care during these tough times. I remember the teams coming together in a joint effort to make it possible for one child to go home for his birthday. With the collaboration of the Hospice at Home team we were able to make this possible. When we pull together - that’s when you realise how much good can be achieved.”

With increasing demand for key services, the hospice has 42 families on the Hospice at Home waiting list, pending additional funding for the service. Richard House mum Olivia said:

 “The pandemic is a good example of the lack of awareness surrounding families who have children with complex health needs. We felt forgotten by the world around us, the only advice we were given by outside professionals was to just shield…consideration from the government wasn’t taken with regards to how we would be feeling, it was all a bit unknown at the beginning of the pandemic, no one knew what life would be like.

“But Richard House kept reaching out to us. They offered weekly music therapy sessions for my daughter and, family events and arts and crafts via zoom. This including remote music therapy sessions made us feel part of the world again, whilst we are still in isolation”.

This year, Richard House cannot rely on the offer of emergency government funding. With the cancellation and postponement of vital fundraising activities, the hospice faces a shortfall of £500,000 and the threat of having to scale back services. The support of our donors and friends is more vital than ever, in order to ensure the sustainability of future services.

Richard House relies heavily on the generosity of donors to carry out their vital work for seriously ill children and their families. Just 30% of the hospice’s operational costs are government funded, and this year, the hospice needs to raise £4.2 million. An emergency appeal will be launched in the coming weeks, Richard House are asking the public to make a difference; without support, service cuts will be made, despite Richard House’s rising demand for children’s palliative care.