Staff at The James Cook University Hospital have been honoured for their “pioneering” work in making it easier for autistic children facing operations.
The award is in recognition of a radical programme of initiatives designed to ease the anxieties of autistic and neurodivergent youngsters who need surgery.
The award was presented during World Autism Acceptance Week by Kerrie Highcock, family development manager for NEAS. She said: “Right from the start of our conversations, it was clear how passionate the team was about making a difference to autistic children and their families. It’s been a joy to work with them and we look forward to the partnership developing.”
Reaching the gold standard has been a team effort – encompassing porters, nurses, doctors and consultants – but Amy Norrington, consultant paediatric anaesthetist, has been central to the progress.
“Of course, it’s very nice to receive the award but what’s far more important is working with NEAS to get it right for patients.
“We want the parents of autistic children to know that this is a place where people are doing their best to make the hospital journey easier. We don’t get it right every time – we’re not perfect – but the aim is to listen and keep on improving.”
Making a difference
As part of the programme, autistic children were asked how the children and young people’s surgical day unit could be improved.
Their feedback led to an architect redesigning the space to create a quiet area, while other changes have included red walls being painted in the calmer colours of pale blue and white, along with dimmable lighting.
An entertaining interactive floor, with hundreds of features, has been installed between the busy and quiet areas and there is now a sensory room for children who need it. It comes complete with adaptable lights, padded floor and beanbags instead of chairs.