Children with cancer 'failed' by system

In collaboration with the Press Association

Children and young people with cancer are spending longer than necessary in hospital because there are not enough children's community nurses and social workers, the charity CLIC Sargent has said.

The charity, which cares for young children with cancer, surveyed children with cancer and their families to mark the start of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Researchers found that nearly half of families felt they did not get the support they needed at home.

Parents reported feeling isolated and unable to look after their child properly at home and many revealed that their child had spent longer than necessary in hospital as a result.

Meanwhile, 50 per cent of children and young people with cancer said that they needed help keeping up with their education, but only one out of three received the support they required.

One young cancer survivor, 19-year-old Manvir Randhawa, described what it is like to return home after undergoing cancer treatment.

"Being sick is the easy bit," Manvir said. "It is the other things - school, confidence, getting back to having friends, your emotions - that are really difficult. And yet children and young people are being left to cope with all of this on their own."

CLIC Sargent's chief executive, Dr Carole Easton, commented: "Each day spent in hospital is an extra day a child is losing out on his or her childhood.

"Being cared for safely at home so that they can be with family and friends or go back to school not only helps children and young people with cancer lead as normal a life as possible, but also helps them cope better with the challenges of cancer treatment."

The charity is campaigning for equal provision of services throughout the UK and a more coordinated approach to community-based care and support for children with cancer to ease their return home from hospital, involving children's cancer nurses, social workers, GPs, children's community nurses and teachers.

Helen Thompson, senior information nurse at Cancer Research UK, commented: "Going home in-between treatments and when treatment has finished can be an anxious time for children with cancer and their families.

"We welcome any measures that ensure the care and support provided for children and teenagers at home is of a high standard and consistent throughout the country."

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