A CHILDREN's unit is set to close in the "interests of patient safety" after it failed to find enough nursing staff for it to continue providing "high standards of care".

On Monday, Debbie Jones chief executive of Butterwick Hospice Care, revealed the children's unit at its Stockton Hospice would close until early next year amidst staffing shortages.

The charity care unit on Teesside, which looks after seriously ill children from across the North-East, was forced to close for a month in September after the departure of a number of nursing staff.

At the time the hospice provider, which operates another hospice in Bishop Auckland, said staff leaving over summer left safety levels too low to offer safe care.

But just three months after it reopened, Ms Jones described the latest decision to shut the children's unit once again, a "deeply frustrating" but necessary one to make.

She said: “Butterwick Hospice Care, like many healthcare charities, has experienced difficulties recruiting nursing staff.

"We had hoped we were in a position to move forward with a new team in place.

"However, further staffing issues have led to another regrettable decision to have to close the children’s unit until early 2020 – when we are confident there will be a complete staff team in place."

The Northern Echo:

The main part of Butterwick Hospice Care's premises in Stockton

Ms Jones said the closure of the unit was a direct consequence of the 'worsening' national shortage of nurses in the NHS.

Last week, the Royal College of Nursing called on the next government to invest at least £1bn into tackling the shortage of nurses, as it was revealed there was an estimated 43,000 vacant nurse positions across the UK in October.

Ms Jones, who said the hospice refused to compromise on its high standards of care by continuing to operate the children's unit with minimal staff, said the hospice was now making its patients aware of the situation.

She said: “Providing the best possible care to our patients lies at the heart of everything that Butterwick Hospice Care does.

"Patient safety is our top priority and we refuse to compromise our high standards of care.

“All patients and parents are being made aware of this situation."

Ms Jones said Butterwick Hospice Care would continue to provide support to children and adults across all sites, through the hospice's other services, despite the temporary closure of the children's unit.