PRINCES FIGHT TO SAVE DIANA’S ‘ ANGELS’
60 children’s nursesmay lose their jobs
PRINCES William and Harry are fighting to save a team of children’s nurses established to honour the life of their mother from being axed by NHS cuts.
The Princes are said to be ‘ concerned’ lack of funds may lead to the sacking of 60 paediatric nurses – nicknamed Diana’s Angels – who provide specialist care for seriously ill youngsters and their families at home.
William and Harry met 20 of them last month at the memorial concert they organised for their mother, who died ten years ago this week, and now Prime Minister Gordon Brown is being asked to rescue the nurses.
The campaign is being led by Princess
Diana’s close friend, Rosa Monckton, and she is due to meet Mr Brown soon to discuss the nurses’ plight.
She says she is determined they should be retained as a ‘lasting legacy’ to the Princess, who was killed in a Paris car crash on August 31, 1997. This Friday marks the anniversary of her death.
Ms Monckton is also calling on Mr Brown to present each Diana nurse with a specially designed insignia to recognise their work and raise the service’s profile.
The nursing teams were set up in 1999 by the Diana Memorial Committee, which was chaired by Mr Brown when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The eight teams received £6million from the Department of Health for the first three years after being set up in Cumbria, Kent, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Cornwall, Wales, Warwickshire and Oxfordshire.
Since then, NHS Primary Care trusts have funded them, but now hard- pressed health bosses are reviewing their contributions in Leicestershire, Cumbria and Kent.
In Warwickshire, the Diana nurses have already been abandoned and absorbed into the existing paediatric care team.
The Diana nurses provide care and support to children with life-threatening or life-limiting diseases such as cancer and genetic disorders. Besides providing respite for parents, the nurses work flexible hours and are experts in administering drugs and pain relief.
They can also provide access to psychologists and play specialists to make the lives of seriously ill children as comfortable as possible.
Ms Monckton, who has maintained a close relationship with the Princes since their mother’s death, said last night: ‘I am meeting Gordon Brown soon. What I want him to do is to ringfence the money again so that the Primary Care Trusts continue to support the nurses and save them from oblivion.
‘These teams are the embodiment of all that Diana stood for.’
She added: ‘The Princes are concerned about the future of the Diana Nursing Teams. They are very much of the view that if we could get some insignia for the nurses, they would very much like to hand them out. I am sure that Gordon Brown wants to do that as well. It would raise their profile.
‘ The Princes are very supportive of the Diana Nursing Teams. They invited several of them to lunch at Wembley the day before the memorial concert for their mother.’
In a personal analysis of the crisis facing the Diana nurses, which she has sent to Mr Brown, Ms Monckton declares: ‘The [nursing] teams feel strongly that they would like to keep and market their Diana identity – although their managers don’t share this view.’
She adds: ‘There is pressure from the Primary Care Trusts to lose the Diana name. We have already lost one team – and in losing the name it becomes far more “acceptable” to cut these services.
‘The remaining teams very much want to keep their Diana Nursing Team status, to continue the work they do in the name of Diana.’
Last night Ms Monckton told The Mail on Sunday: ‘ Diana understood more than most about the landscape of human suffering – unhappiness was a language she was fluent in.
‘She realised, through her own experiences, particularly that of her mother leaving home, that pain is the price you pay for being alive and that it is the result, not the cause of pain, that can make the experience of it either rich, or empty and destructive.
‘What made her so special, and what makes the Diana Nursing Teams so special in continuing her work, is in giving hope to people who have none.
‘ Gordon Brown chaired the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Committee, on which I was privileged to serve. We looked at ways of commemorating Diana’s life that would endure and that would reflect her interests.
‘One of the ideas that I continue to be involved in is the Diana Nursing Teams. They are nurses who offer paediatric palliative care in the community. They look after families where there is a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition.
‘The difference these teams have made to countless families in this devastating position is immeasurable.’
She added: ‘I remember speaking to the mother of a child who had received their care in Coventry. She herself was a nurse, but she told me that having this service meant that in the last weeks of her daughter’s life she was able to simply be her mother.’
A Clarence House spokesman said last night: ‘Princes William and Harry think that these nurses do a wonderful job and they are very proud that their mother is associated with them. They invited some of the nurses to lunch at Wembley and they were at the concert, too.’
A Downing Street spokeswoman refused to comment last night in advance of the meeting between the Prime Minister and Ms Monckton. No10 referred enquiries to the Department of Health.
A DoH spokeswoman said: ‘ Making sure sick children receive the best medical care and treatment is a top priority for the Government.
‘We are committed to ensuring that all children receive palliative care when they need it.’
She added: ‘ The Diana Children’s Community Nursing Teams were set up in 1999 to care for children in the community and we are delighted that eight years on they are not only going strong but many of the teams have expanded so that even more children can benefit.’
The spokeswoman said that funding powers had been ‘devolved’ to Primary Care Trusts, so decisions were not made centrally.
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund – set up after her death – has never provided money for the Diana Nurses. But its website reveals that from 2007 to 2012 its Palliative Care Initiative is committed to spending up to £ 10million to promote the specialist treatment in Africa.
The fund is also spending £10million on a Refugee and Asylum Seekers’ Initiative to ‘raise awareness and highlight the needs and issues of young refugees and asylum seekers’.
It also plans to spend up to £5million over the next five years under a Partnership Initiative in support of penal affairs, mental health and other areas in the UK and, internationally, in programmes on landmines – one of Diana’s favourite charitable causes.
TODDLER Tom Trueman has four special ‘aunties’ to look after him – his team of Diana Children’s Community Nurses.
The three-year-old was born with Apert’s Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects one in 65,000 babies and stops their bones developing.
His mother Wendy has to keep a close eye on Tom because he is very boisterous and a single fall could prove fatal. By the time he was a year old, she was desperate for help at home.
So when Mrs Trueman heard about the Diana nurses from Salford Primary Care Trust, it seemed the answer to her prayers.
Mrs Trueman, 27, of Swinton, Manchester, said: ‘At that time, Tom had a tracheostomy because of his breathing difficulties, so taking him out could be a problem.
‘The nurses came every day to help and they were brilliant. They could clear his tracheostomy tube if it became blocked and I didn’t have to worry about him when he was with them.
‘I think I would have gone mad if I hadn’t got help from them. Tom’s condition means I have to watch him 24/7, because he can easily hurt himself. Diana nurses are the only organisation that offers this sort of medical support, and they have made a great difference to our lives.
‘Tom loves them all and calls them all aunty – he’s very close to them. It’s just like having an extended family,’ she added.
The nurses escort Tom to feed the ducks at the local park, take him shopping at the nearby Trafford Centre in Manchester or sit with him quietly reading him stories.
They even take his half-brother and half-sister, Sam, nine, and Kayleigh, eight, out for trips as well, so Wendy can take a well earned break.
Mrs Trueman said: ‘My husband Andrew works long hours as a construction worker, so it means I’m left alone to cope with the children all day.
‘The nurses have made such a big difference. It would be a great loss if the organisation went under.
‘I think they are an essential part of the community support for children and should receive more funding to keep them going. As they were named after Princess Diana, it would be nice if her memorial fund could make a donation towards the running costs. I was only 17 when Diana died but I do remember that she was really into a lot of charity work, so it would be appropriate.’
Tom has already had ten operations to correct his bones while he is growing and faces more until he is 18, when his growth is complete.
Although he is expected to have a normal lifespan, he was eligible for a Diana nurse because of his tracheostomy and highdependency needs.
When Tom was born, the bones in his hands and feet were fused, leaving him with no toes or fingers – a common problem for Apert’s sufferers.
The toddler needed a tracheostomy because the syndrome gives rise to breathing difficulties in the early years. The tube was removed six months ago and Tom can now breathe unaided.
He wears a safety helmet to protect the bones in his head after a hospital infection attacked them, forcing doctors to remove part of his skull.
INVALUABLE: Mum Wendy Trueman says Diana’s nurses have made it possible for her to cope with caring for her son Tom, who suffers from Apert’s Syndrome
A MOTHER’S LEGACY: Prince William meets Diana nurses from Salford at last month’s Diana tribute concert at Wembley