I arrived at Richard House Children’s Hospice bright and early Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. after an hour-long train commute and met with my center lead – Libby. She gave me a tour of the beautiful hospice campus and told me a little about how their organisation works on a basic level. Not knowing much about children’s hospices, since we don’t have much of the same thing in the U.S., I had a lot of questions and was very interested in learning about the options for families when faced with a diagnosis of their child’s life-threatening or life-limiting illness.
This organisation was started in late 2000, and has only grown bigger and more impactful since then. The hospice has two major sections – a residential programme and an “outpatient” day visit programme. Richard House is one of the six paediatric hospices in the London city limits, which work together to serve children across the entire city. Richard House is located in Newham in far East London, which has a population of about 308,000 residents. Newham is one of the poorest boroughs of London and the resident population is 80% Muslim. The majority of the residents speak English as a second language, which can make receiving services more difficult in addition to living in an impoverished area.
I then sat down with Nikki, the child and family services coordinator at the agency who has a background in palliative care and oncology social work and nursing in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. She spoke with me about her team’s aims, which is to offer family activities, sibling and parent groups, transitioning assistance for older youth, and bereavement support before and after the death of a child. All family members are eligible to participate in these activities.
This first week with Richard House has given me a lot of opportunity to reflect on the differences between palliative care for infants and children in the United Kingdom and the United States. I am looking forward to learning more about the care for children and young people in the country, and I am especially excited to learn more about the transitional care the hospice offers, along with their collaboration with local hospitals.
To donate to Richard House Children’s Hospice, please follow this link. Donations will be used to continue to build larger facilities so more children and families may be helped by the respite care they offer.