24/10/2014 11:05 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Baby Needlessly Trapped In Hospital For Two Years Due To Nurse Shortage


A baby girl will spend the first two years of her life in hospital - despite there being no medical need for her to be there.

Nicola Kefford says her 16-month-old daughter Phoebe has become 'institutionalised' as she hasn't been allowed to return home with her family since the day she was born, due to a shortage of trained nurses.

"She has never left [hospital]," said Nicola, 30, from Exeter. "I have been able to take her round the grounds and she is a really happy little girl. But she is institutionalised.

"I so desperately want her to come home for Christmas. She has spent her whole life living in hospital and it would mean so much for her to come out for the day."

Phoebe was born eight weeks prematurely with a rare heart and lung condition, and spent the first six months of her life in intensive care.

Following life-saving open heart surgery at five weeks old, Phoebe made a remarkable recovery and she has been symptom free since May.

However, Nicola was told her daughter can't leave the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital because staff capable of caring for her at her home have not been recruited.

Nicola says that due to the lengthy process of recruiting and training new staff, Phoebe is unlikely to be able to leave the hospital before June 2015, when she turns two.

While praising the care that helped save her daughter's life, Nicola expressed frustration at the length of time it is taking to set up home support.

"I am not in control," she said. "I feel like I just gave birth and then handed her over. She is my little girl and I need permission to do anything.

"I just want her home so we can feel normal. It feels like we are stuck in a prison at the moment."

Phoebe was born in 2013 with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, a condition that prevents enough blood reaching the lungs.

Following open heart surgery at the Royal Bristol Infirmary, Phoebe suffered from a series of 'blue episodes' in which she stopped breathing, so doctors were reluctant to let her leave the ward without specialist nursing support.

Phoebe has not suffered a blue episode since May, but she is still waiting for her care package to be put in place.

Phoebe's care package will eventually be taken over by Virgin Care, which says it needs to recruit and train eight healthcare assistants to deal with Phoebe's 'very complicated' care.

Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust said they were working with Virgin Care to ensure Phoebe's care needs are met.