A new pre assessment service has been launched for all children and young people undergoing planned surgery at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.
The South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust paediatric pre assessment service is one of the first in the UK to offer a comprehensive service for all children and young people attending for planned surgery – and one of the only ones to have its own dedicated area.
The children and young people’s surgical day unit previously offered a limited pre assessment service for some ear, nose and throat (ENT) and eye procedures.
This was popular with families, who felt more informed, and surgeons, who experienced less cancellations on the day of surgery.
Dedicated pre assessment unit now open
But it was during the COVID pandemic that the service really came into its own as all patients needed swabbing before surgery.
It expanded into its own dedicated area thanks to work by the paediatric anaesthetic and theatre management teams.
Amy Norrington, lead for paediatric anaesthesia and paediatric pre assessment said: “It’s wonderful to finally be able to see 100% of children and young people coming for surgery in a dedicated area where we have the space and facilities to work with them and their families.
“We hope that this expanded service will allow us to offer all children, young people and their families a positive and supported experience throughout their theatre journey with reduced anxieties and reduced cancellations or issues on the day of surgery.”
The South Tees team are now sharing their experiences and helping other trusts across the country to develop similar services. Their paediatric pre assessment guidelines have been identified as a national example of good practice.
Rachel Forrester has microcystic lymphangioma, a genetic condition which causes blisters and bleeding on her tongue.
Aged four and ten the Pontefract youngster had two operations and both times her tongue swelled up to the point that she had to have emergency treatments to stop it blocking her airway.
This left her frightened of further hospital treatments, even though she continued to have significant symptoms and pain.
It was thought Rachel’s only option was to have her tongue removed and re-created when she turned 16.
But aged 16 she travelled to Middlesbrough to see Tobian Muir, a consultant plastic surgeon at The James Cook University Hospital who specialises in the management of vascular and lymphatic malformations using Bleomycin injections.
This offered a less invasive treatment, but still required an anaesthetic.
Pre assessment helped Rachel overcome her fear
The pre assessment team at James Cook quickly established that Rachel’s overwhelming fear of having an anaesthetic was a barrier to her having a procedure she wanted and needed.
Rachel, now 19, has since managed three successful treatments, allowing her to undertake some amazing charity efforts – she has raised £8,000 for Our Hospitals Charity to help other young people like herself – and enabling her to head off to university in Hawaii this year.
“I can’t thank the team at James Cook enough,” she said.
“They were absolutely incredible to me and my family. If it was not for them who knows where I would be now.”