60 chil­dren’s nurs­es­may lose their jobs

The Mail on Sunday - - Front Page - By Christo­pher Leake, Amanda Perthen and Eileen Fair­weather

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

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