New Specialist Nurse funded by national charity WellChild

WellChild and Newcastle's Freeman Hospital are delighted to announce the official launch of the new post, held by Jacqui Laydon, which was made possible through a grant from GSK.

Jacqui will be helping children and young people with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) across Newcastle and the North East to stay at home between heart surgery with the professional care they need to best prepare them for this and other treatments.


Wellchild Specialist Nurse with one of our young heart patients

Jacqui will be based at the Region’s world-leading Cardiothoracic Centre at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne. Through this unique post, she will support families by working closely with colleagues in the community, hospitals and other specialist centres to ensure the highest quality of care. 

As the WellChild Children’s Cardiac Nutrition Nurse Specialist she will help to reduce the time children with CHD have to spend in hospital by arranging and coordinating the care they need at home and providing specialist advice on nutrition as well as emotional and other practical support for the whole family.

Children with congenital heart disease present a unique nutritional challenge, and for children with certain heart conditions, they will often require higher energy requirements in order to grow and thrive. Good nutrition before and after surgery significantly improves the outcome and shortens hospital stay for this vulnerable group of children. Many medical studies have shown that children with serious heart defects can have the best results after heart surgery when they are at the correct weight and size for their age. The WellChild Nurse posts seeks to support families at home to minimize the times they have to be admitted into hospital which can be upsetting for families. Through this post they will receive close support in the community from a nurse who understands about heart children, and can help parents gain in confidence and guide them through this difficult times.

Prior to this post Jacqui worked as a Children’s Cardiac Liaison Sister working between hospital and home supporting families of children with newly diagnosed congenital heart disease (CHD).  She also spent 11 years as a staff nurse on the Children’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. She therefore brings considerable expertise and a comprehensive understanding of the needs and challenges faced by the families with whom she will be working.

Jacqui commented:  “Our cardiac children often have to return to hospital on multiple occasions, due to difficulties with feeding and gaining adequate amounts of weight, for a variety of reasons. I am looking forward to developing the support around nutrition for these children and their families, as well as working with and providing support and advice for my colleagues in the community and local areas. I will be working as part of a wider nutrition team here at Freeman Hospital which involves a consultant paediatric gastroenterologist, intensivist, dieticians and link nurses from the ward and PICU. We hope to work together to provide the best care possible for this vulnerable group of patients, both in and out of hospital.”

The WellChild Nurses’ programme was established to address a clear gap in the provision of care and support for children with long-term serious illness and complex conditions. In addition to keeping families together and benefitting a child’s development, it is often more cost efficient to care for a child at home than in hospital. One child who is benefitting from the extended support WellChild has already enabled is Joshua, born this year with many serious health problems, including dilated kidneys, a congenital heart defect and Tracheo-Oesophagul Fistula where his oesophagus is joined to his windpipe.

Joshua with Jacqui, mum Lisa and grandma Jane

His grandmother, Jane, said: “Jacqui has been a great support to us when we didn’t know who to turn to. She is always at the end of the phone and there to sort out any problems as they arise. She also helps us coordinate appointments with all the different specialists Joshua needs to see.”

Angie Johnson, Matron, Children’s Heart Unit said: “Children with serious heart defects often struggle with feeding and growing which can impact how they respond to surgery and other treatment. This unique new WellChild nurse role is crucial in liaising and providing support for families of children with serious heart defects and disease outside the hospital environment. In this way we can help minimise disruption to their home lives and best prepare them for challenges ahead.”

WellChild’s pilot Children’s Nurse programme began in 2006, and its success has already resulted in the creation of posts in Ayrshire, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Cumbria, East Sussex, Edinburgh, Hywel Dda in Wales, Kirklees, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Oxford, Southampton, Walsall and West Sussex. A further six posts will be funded during this year.

WellChild continues to fundraise to add to its team so that these children across the United Kingdom will benefit from its services. Linda Partridge, WellChild’s Director of Programmes, said: “We have worked to make sure that the essential service now provided by WellChild Children’s Nurses in regions of the UK have a long-reaching impact. Our target is for every seriously ill child or young person to have access to a WellChild Children’s Nurse, and I am delighted that we have now been able to extend that support into this part of the North East. We’re particularly excited that this role is the first of its kind to focus on providing expert feeding advice to help children with more serious heart defects thrive in advance of life-saving surgery and other treatment.”
For further information about WellChild’s work, please see www.wellchild.org.uk


For further information, please contact Lynn Watson on (0191) 223 1543

Notes to Editors:

About WellChild:

There are thousands of children and young people in the UK living with a serious or complex health condition. WellChild is the national charity working to ensure the best possible care and support for all these children and their families wherever they are and whenever they need it.

WellChild’s Nurse programme ensures that each new nurse appointment has a long-lasting impact. A WellChild Children’s Nurse post costs approximately £55,000 a year, and the charity provides funding for the first three years. The relevant local health service providers should then continue that post’s funding and management are asked to guarantee an on-going legacy of care.

  • WellChild’s network of WellChild Children’s Nurses provide practical and emotional support to children with serious or complex care needs and their families, enabling them to leave hospital and be cared for at home wherever possible.
  • With the support of teams of volunteers, WellChild makes family homes and gardens a better, safer place for children and young people. 
  •  Through the WellChild Family Tree, families of seriously ill children can chat and support each other online and through face-to-face local groups. The charity also provides dedicated support to children with the rare condition Wolfram Syndrome and their families. 
  • WellChild has invested more than £20 million in ground breaking projects over the past 30 years leading to many improvements in children’s heath spanning from pain relief to liver and kidney disease. 
  • WellChild ensures that the needs and views of families with seriously ill children are heard by decision makers. 
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