THE first patients will be staying at the newly-built Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice before Christmas.
From next month the hospice will welcome children to stay in its four beds and use state-of-the-art facilities including a sensory room, music room, play room and hydrotherapy pool.
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The hospice at Brackenhall opened its doors at the site a year ago after more than a decade of fundraising and has phased its services in gradually.
The charity has provided care in the community for more than two years and is now embarking on a new chapter – opening the 24-hour care facilities.
It can also cater for families to stay with their children or arrange for respite care to give parents the break they need.
To lead the team of dedicated care professionals the hospice has appointed Vicki Finlay, a trained children’s nurse and former Department of Health advisor as the new Director of Care.
She said: “We are here because sadly, ordinary families face extraordinary challenges and they need and deserve our help.”
Vicki, who started her nursing career at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, added: “My youngest son was diagnosed with a heart condition, although not life-limiting, at three days old and I know how it blows your world apart.
“I have experienced what it is like to be a parent of a sick child and from my work in the children’s hospital I have experienced things from both sides.”
Speaking of her new role, she said: “As a relatively young charity my role is to develop and create a care service that has family and children at the heart of everything that it does.
“Families spend a lot of time in hospitals in a clinical environment and the hospice is designed to be as homely as possible for when they are at their most vulnerable. It’s an immense privilege to be part of this incredible team.”
Last month the hospice was given the go-ahead from the Care Quality Commission, the health organisation which overseas care standards, to offer round-the-clock care to children suffering from a range of life-limiting conditions.
There are four en-suite bedrooms. Three can be booked in advance while the other is for emergency use.
The bedrooms will also be fitted out before each child arrives – for instance, with posters of their favourite pop star or footballer – to make them feel at home.
The hospice also includes an end-of-life suite where a child’s body can be kept for up to two weeks before burial.
One of Vicki’s first tasks has been to oversee the recruitment of a care team for the hospice.
She explained: “We are in the process of recruiting a care leadership team with registered nurses.
“We have had a phenomenal response with applications and have shortlisted 41 for interview.
“We have advertised locally and nationally and there are 24 positions in total.
“We will then be in the position to bring on more support staff such as catering and laundry.”
Chief Executive Peter Branson said: “It takes a long time to get services regulated.
“The facilities when we open the hospice have to be right.
“We have had an unannounced Care Quality Commission visit recently for our hospice at home which went phenomenally well.”
Speaking previously of the hospice’s remit he said: “It’s about making the most of a child’s life rather than focusing on the sad fact that they will die young.
“A children’s hospice is actually a place that’s filled with a great deal of noise and laughter and children having fun.”
And the hospice, which is funded by donations and fundraising, still needs help from the community and local businesses to ensure it can continue its vital work.
Peter added: “A massive amount of fundraising is needed each year – £2.5m – and we are fortunate the community has embraced us.
“We still need to keep the message out there that we still need funds. We never want to be in a position where we have to turn a child away.”