Palliative Care

On Friday I visited the Grittenham Barn Christmas Market at Tillington.

There were some great Christmas gifts there and I particularly enjoyed the Christmas cake that had been soaked in brandy for a week!

But there was also a serious point to my visit.

The Grittenham Barn has been helping to raise money for local charities and this year proceeds will be donated to a wonderful local charity.

The Sussex Snowdrop Trust looks after children with life threatening or terminal illnesses in their own home.

They employ a team of nurses, counsellors and support workers who cover a huge area of Sussex including Midhurst, Petworth, Arundel, Pulborough, Chichester and Bognor Regis.

And they do a remarkable job.  The death of a child is the most terrible thing imaginable.  So it's as much about supporting the family as it is about caring for the child.

Like all charities they need to raise money and they rely heavily on the support of the local community.

I'm a Patron of the St Barnabas Hospice - which manages the Chestnut Tree House Children's Hospice near Arundel - the only children's hospice in Sussex.

It costs over £2 million a year to run the Chestnut Tree Hospice and only a small proportion comes from the taxpayer - less than 10 per cent.

They are currently looking after 210 children and their families but for every child they're helping, there's another child somewhere in Sussex they're not reaching.

This is a problem nationwide and won't be solved overnight.   But the Government is committed to improving palliative care, for children and adults.

£30 million is available this year to support local projects that improve services for children.  And £40 million is being spent on improving the environments where hospices provide care to patients, families and carers.

But we also have to think about the long-term and a major review has been launched to look at how we fund palliative care in the future.

The care which people receive when they have a terminal illness affects the quality of the precious months of life left to them.  That is never more important than for children whose future has been cruelly stolen from them and for their parents.  So all power to the charities like Snowdrop and St Barnabas for what they do.

Christopher N Howarth