Page last updated at 00:08 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Services 'fail' cancer children

Lisa and her son Keller
Lisa Williams was able to care for her son Keller at home

Children with cancer are spending more time in hospital than they need to because community services are lacking, says a charity.

Nearly half of the 460 UK families surveyed by CLIC Sargent said they did not get the support they needed at home to care for a child with cancer.

The charity found stark regional inequalities in provision.

One in three families in the North and South East of England are missing out on community nurses and social workers.

Meanwhile, families in the South West say they are experiencing a good level of support.

CLIC Sargent wants to see an end to the current gaps in community services.

Each day spent in hospital is an extra day a child is losing out on his or her childhood
Dr Carole Easton, chief executive of CLIC Sargent

Every young person with cancer should have access to community care teams, regardless of where they live, it says.

Dr Carole Easton, chief executive of CLIC Sargent, said: "Each day spent in hospital is an extra day a child is losing out on his or her childhood.

"Being cared for safely at home so that they can be with family and friends or go back to school not only helps children and young people with cancer lead as normal a life as possible, but also helps them cope better with the challenges of cancer treatment."

'Normal' life

Mother-of-four Lisa Williams, from Rochester in Kent, knows first-hand what difference community care teams can make.

She was able to care for her youngest son, Keller, now aged nine, at home while he was recovering from leukaemia.

She said: "If it wasn't for our community nurse, Claire, we would have had to travel to and from the hospital on almost a daily basis. Each trip out of the house, Keller is open to infection.

"It's much better to get care at home and everyone can see what's going on. Keller can spend time with his brother and sisters, and, his friends. And we can get back to doing the day-to-day things normal families do."

cancer care
Follow-up care can be given in the community

Lisa said as well as the medical support offered, they had been given help to arrange home schooling for Keller and to get the financial benefits they were entitled to.

Helen Thompson, senior information nurse at Cancer Research UK, said: "Going home in between treatments and when treatment has finished can be an anxious time for children with cancer and their families.

"We welcome any measures that ensure the care and support provided for children and teenagers at home is of a high standard and consistent throughout the country."

Every day in the UK 10 families are told that their child has cancer.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We know that more needs to be done to support people living with and beyond cancer."

He said a new initiative, the National Cancer Survivorship, had been launched to look at how to best meet the needs of children people living with cancer.

He added children and young people would be an immediate priority.

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