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Warwick charity to fund two more Paediatric Palliative Care Consultants for Birmingham Children’s Hospital

Birmingham Children’s Hospital is to become a training hospital in Paediatric Palliative Medicine and will be providing training for two new consultants thanks to funding by a children’s charity in Warwick.

News of the £310k funding, which will double the number of existing roles in the region, came during a special event in Birmingham this week (17th)) hosted by Molly Ollys Founder Rachel Ollerenshaw.

The donation, supported by corporate supporters, Oakland International, in Redditch, will to cover two years of training for the consultants.

Molly Ollys was established following the death of Rachel and husband Tim’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer and marked its tenth anniversary last year.

Molly Ollys, Birmingham Children's Hospital

The charity supports children with life-threatening illnesses and their families and helps with emotional support as well as donates wishes, therapeutic toys and books to children directly and through hospitals across the UK.

And it funded the region’s first ever consultant in paediatric palliative medicine between 2018 and 2021, since when the post has been permanently incorporated by the NHS.

Molly Ollerenshaw on her way to a party in 2011, the year she died.

There are currently only 25 such speciailists in the UK. Nationally there is a shortage of between 50 to 60 consultants within this specialist Paediatric Palliative Medicine service which helps enable patients to live their best lives.

Rachel said: “The need for Consultant-led Paediatric Palliative care is far more important than many realise and primarily that is the case because it is a world that few people fortunately have inhabited.

“From our own experiences with Molly we realised the importance of enabling a good death. Molly had a choice, as parents and her family we had a choice thanks to the support of a consultant in Warwickshire where we live. However, we realised that that care was different down the road in the West Midlands.

“So, Molly Ollys plugged that gap by paying for the first consultant for three years in order to prove the need for the NHS to then take this forward. Once proved Birmingham Children’s Hospital quickly appointed a second consultant with the help of Acorns Hospice. Two consultants meant that BCH could become a training hospital.

“We are therefore delighted that we can continue this project with the funding of training for two more consultants. From zero to four in a seven year period is a big step change and will have a positive long term impact for palliative children in the West Midlands and surrounding areas.”

Since Molly Ollys started more than £4 million has been raised to emotionally support children across the UK.

Another of the charity’s key NHS projects was the creation and refurbishment of Magnolia House at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. This is a safe and non-clinical space where medical teams and families can have important discussions.

Rachel added: “We are extremely proud to be able to support this latest project but none of it would be possible without the magnificent help of key corporate supporters. Oakland International have been incredible. They have really taken time to listen, to meet health professionals and to understand the significance.”

The funding has been particularly welcomed by the hospital’s current Consultants Yifan Liang and Christine Mott.

Molly Ollys, Rachel Ollerenshaw, Hamish Hanson, Grand Union Canal Race

Yifan said: “With the current consultant numbers, we are only capturing the most needy children and there’s a lot more need that we could be addressing.

“This vital business funding will enable us to provide the capacity to serve families better through planning, clinical reviews and which will be more sustainable for everyone concerned.

“Thanks to Molly Ollys, Oakland International, and other corporate businesses supporting this much needed initiative, we are starting to see change and helping families in the way they want and need for the short and long term, and getting the end results for individuals as we roll it out and help more people.”

Oakland and members of BCH were among special guests at an informal drinks evening at a Birmingham city centre venue on Tuesday night, when Rachel provided an overview of how their support is making a real and significant, long-term impact to so many children across the region.

Co-Founder and Group CEO of Redditch-based Oakland International, Dean Attwell, said: “Molly Ollys is a truly wonderful charity supporting so many children and their families through such difficult times. The link to Birmingham Children’s Hospital is another example of an under-resourced but much-needed service identified and championed by Molly Ollys and we are delighted to be part of the funding support team.

“It was a pleasure to have attended the launch event in Birmingham with so many other businesses and potential supporters. We were happy to share our experiences of the journey so far and to show other potential sponsors what it means to get involved, both in terms of helping the charity but also as a return on investment for their own businesses. Charitable giving with a positive return on investment? Now there’s a thought!”

Anyone wishing to donate to Molly Ollys can do so here

Photo by Karen Massey

Yifan Liang

Yifan Liang has worked as a Consultant in Paediatric Medicine for 16 years and has been in her current role at Birmingham Children’s Hospital for five-and-a-half of those – the first person in the West Midlands to be fully funded in that role by the NHS. A significant proportion of paediatric palliative care nationally continues to be funded by charitable causes.

Here, she explains more about her role as well as why it is so vital in further developing the hospital’s existing paediatric services in the integration of palliative care across the community. . .

“A Consultant in paediatric palliative medicine looks after the most fragile children where there is uncertainty in their outcome or they are life-limited. Part of that is optimizing quality of life for families with symptom control as well as giving families the opportunity to think about preferences and wishes and planning for end of life care.

“We look after children across all organisational settings within the West Midlands, whether it be at home, at the hospice or hospital. It means that they’ve got continuity of care and they have choice.

Molly Ollys, Birmingham Children's Hospital, Yifan Liang
Yifan Liang

“We’ve got expertise in really good symptom control so it reduces the amount of suffering families have to go through and it provides really good emotional and psychological support for families in trying to make difficult decisions. It’s individual for both the patient and the child and the families as to what those decisions might be and what their priorities are. Some families want to travel and go to lots of places and some families want to pursue all the treatments possible. It’s important the right support is in place to be able to do that.

“If you want to be at home and your care and medical needs are really complex you need somebody who can ensure that it’s done safely. For example we’ve supported some cardiac children on quite difficult infusions to be at home for several months, which they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do. They would have had to remain in hospital. It’s often quite frightening and daunting to have somebody that you love dying at home and worrying about who to call for support.

“My role is also to support the community nurses on the ground but also the hospice and hospital teams to feel secure in knowing that they are doing their best as well.”

Yifan and her colleagues are also keen to use their positions to help build on the wider conversation around serious and terminal illness among children.

“Having had the pandemic means people were more open about saying life is fragile and that asking – actually, do you know what your loved one’s wishes are and what would you like?” she said.

“Also part of the wider conversation is how we should not be fearful of being able to say ‘I’m sorry to hear that your child died’ or that we don’t shy away from  supporting our friends and family from going through really hard times because their child is really unwell or has died. There’s always a sadness in death, of course, but how you support people to heal is really important.”

But Yifan is also quick to add: “It’s a slight misconception that my job just equals looking after the dying. I’m looking after children who are the most fragile and have life-limiting conditions. Some children will live a long time into adulthood, some children will die, but some children will get stronger.

“The thing for me is to remember why I’m doing it, to make the dark times a bit brighter. This is the most challenging times for the families and if I can make a difference and make that better that is a really important reason for me to do my job well.”