The Dr Dorothea Sandars and Irene Lee Churchill Fellowship to investigate and implement best practice physiotherapy in Australian paediatric palliative care

Ireland
United Kingdom
Health and Medicine
The Dr Dorothea Sandars and Irene Lee Churchill Fellowship to investigate and implement best practice physiotherapy in Australian paediatric palliative care featured image

Best practice physiotherapy has the potential to significantly enhance the lives of children with life limiting conditions by maximising independence and participation, treating pain, and managing positioning, posture and respiratory symptoms. Physiotherapists have worked in paediatric hospices in the UK for many years and are regarded as the world leaders, with many providing aquatic and land-based physiotherapy. Very Special Kids (VSK) was the first paediatric hospice in Australia, opening in 1996 and was the first to employ a physiotherapist in 2017. There is no published literature about physiotherapy in paediatric palliative care, yet there is a desperate need for these skills and expertise.


In May & June of 2022, I travelled to the UK and Ireland visiting 12 paediatric hospices, spending time with physiotherapists and other professionals to gain a deeper understanding of holistic paediatric palliative care and the integral role physiotherapy plays in this.


An overview of some key recommendations is as follows:

  • Physiotherapy must be available 7 days per week, with flexible hours
  • Education is a key focus
  • Physiotherapists advise on moving & handling, respiratory assessment & management, optimal positioning & aquatic physiotherapy
  • Physiotherapists provide recommendations regarding safe & appropriate equipment for paediatric hospices
  • Physiotherapists provide non-pharmacological strategies for managing pain
  • Aquatic physiotherapy is a highly valued addition to land-based physiotherapy service provision in paediatric hospices which requires significant resources
  • Respiratory physiotherapy interventions are used widely
  • Physiotherapists provide care for children and young people at end of life

Fellow

Belinda Luther

Belinda Luther

VIC
2020

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