Children who are seriously ill or suffer from life-threatening conditions will be able to choose to be treated at home under new government guidelines published today.
The new Department of Health (DoH) guide aims to provide a more holistic approach to the care of sick children, particularly those who are likely to be ill for a long time, to ensure the disruption to their education and personal life is kept to a minimum.
"Very ill children who need palliative care deserve much more choice about the way they receive that care. Many families tell us they want more care at home, so we're asking the NHS to change," said care services minister Liam Byrne.
"If a child wants to stay at home, they should be allowed to do so. It is the very least they deserve. Our manifesto commitment to end of life care makes this clear."
The new guidelines state that care should be tailored to individual needs and should include the option of receiving palliative treatment at home, while a better use of nurse-led community services should reduce the needs for children having to visit hospital regularly.
The families of sick children are also included in the new guidelines, which say they should receive support and help in dealing with the death of a sick child.
Meanwhile, the Association of Children's Hospices (ACH) has today launched a step-by-step guide to setting up children's hospices. The DoH, which funds the association, believes these establishments are vital in providing integrated cares services to sick children.
Alan Craft, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said he was "delighted" at the new guidelines.
"This will aid commissioners in their duty to bring a range of providers together, to create a seamless network for this vulnerable group of children, young people and families," he said.