Developing high-quality community children's nursing services is crucial to the provision of safe, integrated and comprehensive care in the home or close to home for children with complex or continuing care needs. We are embarking on a wide-ranging programme of action dedicated to transforming community services. Within this programme, we are taking forward a project looking at the benefits and the opportunities arising from investment in community children's nursing services.
I know that the Minister is aware that a reception was held in the House earlier this month that was sponsored by the Royal College of Nursing, of which the Minister was a member, and the WellChild charity, which was intended to encourage primary care trusts to employ community children's nurses in order to help not only children with long-term complex health needs, but their families. Will the Minister tell me what steps the Government are taking to ensure that these nurses are employed, as they will help children and their families to co-ordinate packages of not only medical but local care, which might help them to spend more time at home rather than commuting to hospital on a regular basis, as this is often painful to them?
I congratulate the Royal College of Nursing and WellChild on holding that reception, which highlighted some very important issues; as the hon. Gentleman said, we were both present. Government funding of £340 million established through our recent child health strategy will help local areas to support the development of more care packages in the location preferred by the child and family. To provide the safe, comprehensive and sometimes highly complex packages of care that these children need takes time to co-ordinate. There are no quick fixes, as was highlighted at the reception. In many cases, delays are caused by the time taken to resolve issues such as housing and adaptations rather than the lack of community nurses, but we are committed to the work force and to the planning of community children's services. I believe that this area will be addressed in the Prime Minister's commission on the future of nursing and midwifery.
Will the funding allocated to primary care trusts for community children's nurses be ring-fenced? As we often see with PCTs, if the money is not ring-fenced, it can sometimes be diverted to other priorities. How will the nurses work and interact with the local authority, which often provides the child's basic care needs in terms of getting the child up, ready and dressed?
As I was saying, the complexity of the package is very evident, so we have to co-ordinate not only with local authorities, but with other agencies. Commissioners need to consider how the new funding established through the recent child health strategy can enable the development of children's community nursing services capable of providing a more all-round care package, including palliative care and, sadly, sometimes end-of-life care in the home or closer to home. It is for the commissioners to decide within the local community how best to manage those funds.