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For parents to be fed when staying with their child

This was one of Sophie’s main thing she wanted changed. She couldn’t ever understand why the parent staying with their child was never fed. She used to say ‘my mum has no choice but to be here, she is here because I am poorly yet she is not fed’. Throughout her treatment we stayed in Portsmouth, Southampton and UCLH hospitals. We found the same issues in all three and I am aware it is like this across the country. Only 15% of hospitals in the country feed the parent that stays. Sophie often didn’t want me to leave her to get something to eat – she was scared, worried about being sick or just didn’t feel safe enough to let me go. Due to covid no other person could come in to sit with Sophie so I could leave her – it would often mean I couldn’t eat. When I knew I was going to be admitted I would take snacks which wouldn’t be healthy but it meant I ate something, it resulted in me gaining over two stone in weight in a year of Sophie’s treatment.

 

Since Sophie died this has been one of the wishes I have been determined to change as quick as possible. To hear of stories of parents not eating for 5 days, not being able to afford to eat or not able to leave their child to eat drives me to fill these gaps. We shouldn’t be allowing parents to not eat when their child is so poorly. Sophie’s Legacy charity have been providing snack and toiletry boxes to 15 children’s ward in Portsmouth and Southampton hospitals. We have been delivering them every single week to ensure parents have access to food on the ward 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The feedback has been extremely positive often with parents saying without the food we provide they wouldn’t have eaten. We will continue to provide these until they are not needed.

 

I talked to Sophie before she died about her wish to get parents fed and to change them in our local hospitals. Sophie was insistent that the changes should be across the country, her words were ‘what about the other children and parents in the other hospitals’. Sophie showed empathy and maturity way beyond her years and made it clear that this should be changed nationally.

 

I have been working with Phil Shelley (NHS Food Review), Ruth May (Chief Nursing Officer) and Kate Pye (Deputy Chief Nursing Officer) along with staff in a variety of hospitals across the country. The team have visited many hospitals across the country which will be written up in the report due to be shared shortly. One of the findings is that the cost for one parent to eat in hospital is around £15 a day. Given the current financial challenges this means some parents will not be able to afford to eat.

 

Children like Sophie would often be going home still poorly and therefore the parent becomes the full time carer. If we don’t look after the parent then this will impact on the child. The issues of parents not being fed have been the same for decades, I had a parent contact me saying when her son had a brain tumour 30 years ago the issues I am raising were the same.

 

It is therefore time to change this and what a legacy Sophie could leave. She would be proud to have changed the food for parents given how much she loved eating!