Background Children's palliative care services have recently been awarded fixed-term grants, aimed at improving the provision of care for children with life-limiting conditions in the community. We report findings of a qualitative study to investigate the experience of a cohort of community children's nurses from teams involved in setting up or extending community-based children's palliative care services. The purpose of the study was to identify factors that affect service delivery, from the staff perspective, and to suggest ways of promoting their sustainable development.
Methods Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 21 nurses from 12 different teams providing palliative care for children at home and in hospices. Participants were questioned about the services they provided and their own roles in that provision. nvivo qualitative data analysis software was used to explore themes arising from the transcribed recorded interviews.
Findings Key findings were the importance of physical location in facilitating multidisciplinary communication, the importance of defining role boundaries between existing and new providers of children's palliative care, and the potentially detrimental impact of insecure funding on referral patterns and recruitment to posts. Staff named the opportunity to offer direct ‘hands-on’ care to families, access to work-based support and networking opportunities as important factors in helping them cope with the stresses involved in managing finite resources and the emotional challenges of their work.
Conclusions The maintenance of a mixed caseload with a significant proportion of direct care, provision of ongoing support and clearly defined roles are recommended as means of bolstering the ability of staff to develop their services. The deliberate locating of services to enhance communication between staff and guidance on the preparation of funding applications may further contribute to the sustainability of these services.