KEY findings from data released by The National Child Mortality Database (NCMD) reveal that child deaths in England are at a record high, with an alarming increase in 2023 in comparison to the previous years.
Infant deaths (babies under 1 year of age) accounted for a huge 59% of all child deaths, with neonatal deaths (babies under 28 days old) making up 41%.
Local children’s hospice charity, Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, has been supporting families across Surrey, south-west London and north-west London with outstanding care and support for over 20 years.
In November, the charity expanded its specialist bereavement service to ensure families of babies or children who have died suddenly, and not just those previously known to the charity, can access the expert and comprehensive bereavement care that a children’s hospice can provide to help cope with the death of a child. A new pathway of care has been created, including a rapid-response referral system and specialist trauma therapies. Immediate support can be provided to schools and nurseries, and the team has expanded to make sure they can respond to this demand. Healthcare professionals across the catchment have not hesitated to ensure families are referred so that during the unimaginable days that follow the tragic death of a child, the family are given the highly specialist, outstanding care that they need.
Illustrating just how important Shooting Star’s bereavement service is to the local community, the NCMD data showed that child deaths increased by 2.1% in Surrey, 13.4% in south-west London and 22.8% in north-west London.
As part of Shooting Star Children’s Hospice’s extended support, they are working in partnership with the north-west London Child Death Review Team to reach families in north-west London, an area of the charity’s catchment that experiences the highest number of infant and child deaths, the greatest level of deprivation and limited or no local support for families bereaved of their child.
Sarah Hodkinson, Head of Psychosocial Services at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices said:
“Shooting Star Children’s Hospices believes that every family should have access to the specialist care they need when grieving the death of their child. This cannot continue to exclude families whose baby or child dies unexpectedly. The team at Shooting Star have been working tirelessly to ensure that they are equipped to provide the very best of care, tailored to the needs of different types of death so that no family is left on their own without bereavement care.
“Since the launch of our extended bereavement service, it’s been both encouraging and sobering to see how many referrals we’ve already had come through to us and how clearly welcome and much needed this support is. We feel humbled to be able to be there for families. There is a tangible sadness in the team as we learn of each new death and a moment in which we imagine this horror happening to a loved one. Then, without hesitation, we race out to family homes, taking with us all the kit and compassion that we know will be needed. We surround each family with an expert network of support and we have the daily privilege of seeing the impact of our care; care that time and time again families describe as a lifeline in their darkest moments.”
Bereaved families supported by Shooting Star Children’s Hospices can benefit from flexible, tailored support from their highly specialised care team. Services provided at the charity’s Hampton site, Shooting Star House, include trauma-informed counselling and art therapies, complementary therapies, siblings’ groups, mums, dads and grandparents’ groups, beautiful memorial days for the whole family, hydrotherapy sessions and an opportunity to meet with their team of Family Support Workers.
Most recently they have also launched a weekly bereavement café at Shooting Star House, their Hampton-based site. The sessions allow families to gather and meet other families, and of course, enjoy a coffee and cake in a safe and welcoming environment.
It is only possible for Shooting Star Children’s Hospices to provide this vital care thanks to the generosity of supporters – please visit www.shootingstar.org.uk to find out more about their work and how you can support them.