Nursing shortage shuts Butterwick Hospice's children's unit
The children's unit of a Teesside hospice has been forced to close for the second time in as many months after failing to recruit nurses.
In September, Butterwick Hospice in Stockton closed the unit until 21 October after staff left.
Now, after being reopened for just a few weeks, it is closing again until early 2020 because there are not enough staff to keep patients "safe".
Senior hospice nurse Dr Rafah Al-Bahrani said it was "heartbreaking".
Interviews for two nurses are due to take place next week, but even if suitable candidates are found, Dr Al-Bahrani said it would still take several weeks to give the specialist hospice-care training required.
Dr Al-Bahrani said it had "been really hard".
"I've had to phone some families and tell them they can't bring their child in in the next few days," she said.
"It's been heartbreaking and I cannot find a substitute place for those families.
"It's been a real struggle to make the decision.
"This step is being taken to ensure that we provide a safe service to all our patients."
The hospice was set up by Mary Butterwick OBE in 1984 on two sites in Stockton and Bishop Auckland, to provide care and support for people living with progressive life-limiting illnesses.
It is funded by charitable donations and Dr Al-Bahrani said finding time for fundraising and recruitment drives was "difficult".
The Royal College of Nursing said there were currently 43,000 nurse vacancies in the UK.