Outraged parents have set up a petition to challenge what they have branded a 'terrible decision' by the West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that will stop funding that enables children to receive hospital care at home.
Not one person who left comments on The Chronicle's Facebook page and Twitter account thought it would be a positive move for the CCG to stop providing the £450,000 funding for the service at the Countess of Chester Hospital, which allows more beds to be available for young people in need of them and also helps children to feel more secure by receiving care in their own homes.
Related story: Funding axed for Chester children's hospital care at home
Some said the decision, which has been made because the service 'hasn't delivered any cost savings', was 'ridiculous', calling it 'terrible news and a terrible decision', while Dr Ravi Jayaram, consultant and lead clinician for children’s services at the Countess said it was a ‘retrograde step’ in terms of delivering high quality paediatric care in the 21st century.
And parents of sick children who will be directly affected by the cuts feel so strongly that they have created a petition asking the CCG to reconsider pulling the 'invaluable' service to prevent a 'lasting disastrous impact' on families in West Cheshire.
Naomi Bentham, mother of four-year old Anya who has spent the last few years battling neuroblastoma, is encouraging as many people as possible to sign the Save Chester's Children's Hospital at Home petition - and hopes to get 2,500 before sending it off to the CCG and asking them to reconsider.
Naomi said: "As a family who has accessed this service countless times for our daughter's oncology care, we know how important this service is. The team prevented further inpatient stays for our child when time away from hospital settings was precious to us. "The nursing team were able to build up our daughter's confidence and trust in nurses which helped immensely with further life saving treatment.
"Had the service not existed we would have taken up not only a bed space on the Children's Unit, but an isolation room on a regular basis over the course of two and a half years," she added.
Parents also believe that without the service, the Children's Unit at the Countess will ultimately be unable to cope with demand - leading to ward closure and longer admissions.
This week the CCG issued a statement to say the service was introduced as pilot service in 2012 and was subsequently funded for three years from April 2013 to support service redesign at the Countess.
They said it had been made 'clear from the outset' that the Trust would make the necessary adjustments to sustain the service beyond April 2016 but it was 'regrettable' that the anticipated savings had not been realised.
Dr Huw Charles-Jones, Chair of NHS West Cheshire CCG, said: “The funding for Children’s Hospital at Home has not been ‘axed’.
"The CCG was very clear that the funding for this project was for a three-year period only. However it appears that this was not fully appreciated by Dr Jayaram and his consultant colleagues.
"As a consequence, the Hospital at Home service became an expanded paediatric bed base rather than an alternative to hospital admission. This situation was always going to be unsustainable when the non-recurrent, pilot funding ran out."
Helen Till, whose son Drew has the rare genetic condition Diamond Blackfan Anaemia, wrote on social media: "I can't describe how devastating this is to our family. They care for Drew physically and me mentally. This service had been our lifeline over the past three years.
"Having a child with a lifelong condition is bad enough, but forcing them to spend more time in hospital than they actually need to is awful."
The petition has already seen more than 1,617 supporters. You can sign it by clicking here