Professor Gordon Dickson: Children’s hospice charity will have a special place in my heart forever

George Reid, Chair, CHAS
George Reid, Chair, CHAS
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­Professor Gordon Dickson has been central to the charity’s success as it has evolved its care and support and ­children’s palliative care. Professor Dickson served voluntarily as CHAS chairman for 12 years. However, as he retires, he reflects on what has been achieved.

He said: “It has been a privilege to have been involved with CHAS and it will forever have a special place in my thoughts. Indeed, it is a charity that has a special place in many hearts. Through the generosity of the people of Scotland, we were able to establish CHAS, our two hospices, Rachel House and Robin House, and our CHAS at Home hospital and community outreach teams.

“I have many fond and proud moments of my time at CHAS. The best are when I meet the families we support. Despite facing the most ­difficult of times, I am always inspired by their strength and determination.

“They tell me that CHAS gives the whole family – mum, dad and the ­siblings – the care they need. Everything we do makes a difference – from cooked meals to a listening ear, from fun activities to something that little bit special, like a party or a trip to a ­concert. And, of course, our expert medical care and end-of-life support.

“Sadly, not every family in Scotland who has a child with a life-shortening condition, is accessing our support. In 2015, we commissioned the study Children in Scotland requiring Palliative Care (ChiSP), along with the Scottish Government, and it found that three children die each week in Scotland from a life-shortening ­condition. Sadly, we only ­reach one of them. We are determined to reach them all.

“The study was the first of its kind in the UK and highlighted the scale of the problem in Scotland. It was also instrumental in achieving, for me, one of the highlights of my time with CHAS.

“To address the challenges, we needed stronger and more sustainable funding, both voluntary and statutory. We do not have the funds to reach every family who needs us.

“We worked with the Scottish ­Government, and with cross-party support, to secure parity of funding between children’s and adults’ ­palliative care. For the first time, children’s palliative care was recognised as having its own challenges and opportunities and that there was an urgency in improving care for the 0-21 year age group. It also signalled to families that there is a commitment to support them and that CHAS has the skills and reach to do this.

“However, we cannot solely rely on statutory funding. There are 15,400 children in Scotland living with a life-shortening condition – a scale we never imagined – and if we are to reach everyone who needs our help we need to match statutory funding with voluntary funding. We need to at least double our income.

“It has been a privilege to be at the heart of CHAS for the past 12 years and I know that everyone involved with this outstanding charity will continue to work to ensure every child and family that needs help is able to access it.”

George Reid joined the board of CHAS in 2009, and became chairman in September 2017.

He added: “It will be difficult to imagine CHAS without Gordon. He has been instrumental with so many of our developments and successes. One thing I am always reminded about by Gordon is that everything we do must benefit the families we care for. He always has the children and families we support at his core.

“No board meeting gets underway until we have heard from one of our care team, families and children. I’d like to thank him for his tremendous leadership. As he highlights, we have much work to do and our recently launched CHAS plan, Reaching Every Family in Scotland, sets out what we want to achieve.

“We have two exceptional hospices, Rachel House and Robin House, and families love staying there because they provide somewhere they feel safe, happy and supported. But they face some of their greatest challenges when they are in their own communities, where they often experience isolation or cannot access services.

“That is why expanding our outreach service is vital. Our CHAS at Home teams are based in our hospices as well as Aberdeen and Inverness to support families in every corner of Scotland. We are also enhancing our work with our NHS ­colleagues, local authorities and the voluntary sector.

“We are ambitious and determined, and as Scotland’s national children’s hospice provider and a leader in children’s palliative care, we will lead from the front.”

To find out more, visit CHAS at www.keepthejoyalive.org.uk, on Twitter: @supportCHAS, or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/supportCHAS.