Specialist Family Practitioner Team

The Specialist Family Practitioner Team are part of the NHS Children’s Community Services, covering the county of Lincolnshire. We are a multidisciplinary professionally qualified team.

Who we are

The Specialist Family Practitioner Team are part of the NHS Children’s Community Services, covering the county of Lincolnshire. We are a multidisciplinary professionally qualified team.
Each team member follows professional standards and codes of ethics including:

Nursing & Midwifery Council
Health and Care Professions Council 
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

What we do

We help children, young people and their families to understand their thoughts and feelings about how they are being affected by life limiting or life threatening illness and bereavement.
We do this by offering emotional support, using counselling techniques and the use of therapeutic play activities encouraging children and young people to express themselves. The service enables families to talk to somebody completely impartial who is not directly involved in their care.

How we work

The SFP team offer emotional, physiological and social support to families helping them to adapt to any changes in their lives.

We use an individual family focused approach to support all the family which can include therapeutic play for example, games, role-play, craft activities and story telling with children and young people. Our work with adults involves enabling communication within the family through discussion and listening. This includes supporting parents to have often difficult conversations with children and young people.

We work closely with all professionals including the Community Children’s Nurses, the palliative care team, the Children’s MacMillan Nurse and other children’s agencies and organisations.

Visits are arranged in the family home, schools or any other convenient location, Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm, a specialist family practitioner is ‘on call’ during these hours to discuss new referrals and sign posting.

Referral process

We accept referrals from any professionals who know a family who meet our service criteria. Please contact the service prior to referral. The referral form (PDF, 15KB) must be completed by the professional referring into the service and families must have given consent prior to referrals being sent. Referrals can be posted or emailed.

Families meeting our criteria can also refer themselves and are able to do this by telephone.

Referral criteria

Therapeutic, psychosocial and emotional support for families who live in Lincolnshire who experience any of the following:

  • Parents who have experienced the death of a child or  young person (under 19 years of age), known to service, or with other siblings.
  • Children and young people who have experienced the death of a parent or guardian, or sibling.
  • Families with a child or young person who has an oncology diagnosis.
  • Children and young people living with a parent / guardian or sibling with a anticipated life expectancy of less than one year.
  • Short term specific interventions for children, young people and their families who have a child with a life limiting diagnosis.

Information and resources

Child bereavement

The loss of a loved one can bring with it many complex and difficult feelings as well as reactions. Children can also struggle with a whole range of emotional and physical symptoms, which can be more frustrating and isolating for younger children, who can struggle to express how they feel. Lets face it even adults can struggle with death and its meaning.

Key points to remember


Information should be age appropriate and honest. It is important to keep children informed of what is happening. Most children pick up of tensions, changes and feelings, giving them a sense of something being wrong. Ask the child what they know or have heard – be prepared for difficult questions and respond as honestly as you can. It is ok to say you do not know.
Asking what they think dead means can be very relevant. A simple explanation of death could be “The body no longer works, they cannot see, hear, breathe, walk or talk”.

Our vocabulary has so many acronyms for death, perhaps because people find death so difficult. Try hard not to use such language such as “gone to sleep”, “passed away” or “not with us any more” as these can confuse a child and lead to further misunderstanding around death.


Children like adults will respond to bereavement in a variety of ways. There is no one way through the process. Give them the time and space to react and deal with it their own individual way. Often younger children will fluctuate between upset tears to playful laughing in a instant. This does not mean they are “over it” but will be their way of coping. Allow them opportunity to return to the loss when they want to, but avoid forcing the subject upon them.

However difficult it may be, it is important the person who has died is remembered and brought up in conversations, eg: Do you remember that day we went to?, What was _______ favorite food?


Many ask the question should a child attend the funeral. There is no one answer to this. The process of a funeral can be explained so the child knows what will happen. Never assume a child has an understanding for words like coffin, cremation. The child can be asked if they would like to attend. Many children want to go, some do not, but may attend the after funeral party or wake. Each child is individual. It can help a great deal if the child is involved in the process, helping to pick flowers, what they might like to wear, even song choices.


Losing a loved one can change a household forever. Often children can find comfort in the routine things of life. Going to school, mealtimes, bedtimes, after school clubs and activities can help the child know that life continues and that can bring comfort. Some children find school a way of escaping the reality of the bereavement.

Bereavement can often bring up spiritual thoughts – which might include religion but not necessarily. Taking time out to find comfort and support from nature, art, music, poetry as well as faith can help some people. It is important to respect individual choices.

Useful resources

There are numerous books available to help adults and children understand bereavement and loss. The following are some books that the team use with primary school children, but are not an exhaustive list and there are many more good books and resources.

  • Remembering: A workbook for primary school children
  • Tear soup; A story for older children and adults.
  • The oak tree: A story about death in the oak forest.
  • Badgers Parting Gifts: A story about death in the animal world.
  • Water bugs and Dragon flies: explaining death to young children.
  • The Huge Bag of Worries: A story about how worries can build up for children.
  • What’s dead mean?

Other services

Children who do not meet the criteria for our service and who appear to struggle with a bereavement can be supported by schools, information from websites, books and other charitable organisations in the area. Below are some useful websites.

Support for Oncology children and families.
The team works closely with the children’s Macmillan and community nurses. When a child is given an oncology diagnosis, a referral is offered to the family. Often having a non-clinical support person can help the whole family with their emotional worries and fears as well as supporting the child and siblings with how they feel. The service continues to offer emotional support throughout treatment. Often as treatment comes to an end families find they can experience many emotions often put on hold to see the child through treatment. Your specialist family practitioner can support the whole family thought this transition.

Other oncology support services

Palliative care

The service offers support to the whole families when there is a child or parent who has a life expectancy of less than one year. This can be a very difficult time and the team offer support throughout the end of life. This service can continue to offer support following bereavement.

Charitable trust fund

The service welcomes any donations which help to support all the families we work within Lincolnshire. We are able to buy creative art materials, books, games, memory boxes and specialised staff training. Charitable donations also help to finance support days that the service organise for families affected by bereavement, siblings support days and also for parents who care for children with complex health needs. A donation of £5 will buy each bereaved child a memory book, £10 will provide enough candle wax for 5 children to make a candle in memory of their loved one, £12 will provide a sturdy memory box for a child to keep all their precious memories of their loved one in.

To find out more about making a donation, please see the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Charity website.

Families who have used the service can also “donate a book” that they have found useful, which will then be used by the service for other families.

Contact details

Ruth Dones, Team Lead
Specialist Family Practitioner Team
Kingfisher Unit
Grantham & District Hospital
Manthorpe Road
NG31 8DG

Tel: 01476 464259