The GiST, issue 36

Welcome

As an organisation and a Disability Confident Employer, we are committed to supporting our staff who have a disability or long-term health condition, and we are constantly striving to ensure that our services and buildings are accessible to everyone.

Our magazine cover stars are Grace Spence Green, a junior doctor at St Thomas' Hospital, and Ras Kahai, a cardiorespiratory dietitian at Royal Brompton Hospital. They are passionate about increasing representation of disabled people and improving physical access for patients and staff across the Trust. Read their interview about what is being done to support wheelchair users.

At Guy's and St Thomas', we are aware of the close link between nature and health and wellbeing and we are committed to reducing the impact of our work on the environment. Read about some of the things we are doing as a Trust to reduce our carbon footprint.

Our refugees and asylum seekers service supports some of the capital's most vulnerable people. Find out about the work of the team.

Hugo Pattison was 14 years old when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Read about how he benefited from pioneering robotic surgery, and the collaboration of surgeons from across the Trust.

You can also read about the history of Royal Brompton Hospital, which has 180 years' experience in respiratory disease and is now a centre of excellence in heart health.

I hope you enjoy this issue of the GiST.

Dr Ian Abbs, Chief Executive
Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust

Words and photos by Shammi Anand, Matthew Barker, Kelly Cook, Maxine Hoeksma, Daisy Holden, Maxine Lenza, Eloise Parfitt, Joe Parry, Anna Perman, Ania Rainbird and Lesley Walker.

Cover photo by David Tett.

Design: AYA-Creative

Print: O'Sullivan Communications

Front cover: Junior doctor Grace Spence Green and cardiorespiratory dietitian Ras Kahai

We are delighted that the GiST scooped the award for 'Best Corporate Publication – External' at the CorpComms Awards 2019, and a bronze award for 'Best Branded Content Publication' at the Corporate Content Awards 2020.

Photos within the magazine were taken at different stages of the COVID-19 response when guidance for personal protective equipment and social distancing varied.

If you have any comments about the magazine or suggestions for future articles, please contact the communications department, St Thomas' Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH, or email [email protected]

Visit the Guy's and St Thomas' website.

Round-up

Ambitious plans have been unveiled to transform care for patients affected by head and neck cancer.

With the support of charitable donations, Guy's Head and Neck Cancer Centre has launched to improve how head and neck cancer is diagnosed and treated.

Head and neck cancer is the 6th most common cancer globally and around 1,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with the condition every month.

Guy's Head and Neck Cancer Centre will bring together a range of programmes to offer patients the best possible care.

The centre aims to speed up diagnosis for patients and improve the ways they are treated for their condition by minimising side-effects, maximising treatment effectiveness and reducing rates of recurrence.

It will also provide state-of-the-art patient education and support services to improve the quality of life for those living with and beyond head and neck cancer.

The centre will care for people like Naema Abubakar, who was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of head and neck cancer in August 2018, at the age of 23.

After being treated by the head and neck cancer team at Guy's Cancer, she is now in remission.

Guy's and St Thomas' Charity is fundraising for a further £5 million to fund this fantastic service for head and neck cancer patients.

Guy's and St Thomas' has received an award which recognises its dedication to improving access to healthcare for LGBT+ people and creating an inclusive culture.

The Trust took part in the NHS Rainbow Badges Second Phase pilot scheme being led by NHS England.

NHS Rainbow Badges first launched at Evelina London Children's Hospital as a way to signal support for staff and patients who are LGBT+. The scheme was adopted by NHS England, who have used it to benchmark and recognise NHS organisations for their work on LGBT+ inclusion.

The Trust received a Bronze award which recognises the many different ways LGBT+ staff and patients are supported. An action plan was also drawn up to support further work to overcome healthcare barriers for LGBT+ people.

Joe Parry, co-chair of Guy's and St Thomas' LGBT+ network, said: "We are proud that vital work to support LGBT+ staff and patients has been recognised, and excited to continue to make improvements which will have a positive impact on the entire Trust."

A round-up of media coverage featuring Guy's and St Thomas'.

BBC News – Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the Simulation and Interactive Learning Centre at St Thomas' Hospital to meet staff and conduct an interview with the BBC's health editor Hugh Pym. The visit and interview were to coincide with the Government's announcement of a new funding settlement for health and social care.

Daily Mirror – Richard Hart raised nearly £25,000 for Guy's and St Thomas' Charity after 2 years of challenges which culminated in him running the London Marathon. He smashed his fundraising target which he had set up to mark 21 years since he donated a kidney to daughter Emily. The Daily Mirror ran an exclusive, heart-warming story about Richard and Emily.

BBC Radio 4 - Professor Jo Howard, consultant haematologist, was interviewed live on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the announcement of a new drug for people with sickle cell disease. Professor Howard, who leads the sickle cell service at the Trust, spoke about the treatment crizanlizumab, which is the first of its kind in 20 years, and how it should benefit patients with the disease.

Last year Guy's and St Thomas' captured a range of individual staff stories and experiences during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their moving accounts reveal what it was like during the early days of the Trust's pandemic response, and provide an invaluable historical record.

More than 30 interviewees represent only a snapshot of the views of the Trust's staff but each have an extraordinary story to tell.

From scouring the world for ventilators and PPE and chartering a Virgin jet to fly them back from China, to building a new oxygen tank and driving a pipe through the hospital in 16 days.

Staff reflected on what it was like to move the paediatric intensive care unit at Evelina London to make room for adult patients, and how they organised the donations that flooded in, starting with 100,000 Greggs biscuits.

Every member of staff played their part – from nurses, consultants, junior doctors and managers, to porters, engineers and financial planners.

It was what they trained for, what they studied for and what the NHS was founded to do. For many, it was the most intense experience of their working lives.

To read the collection of stories, visit our COVID-19 story website.

The flagship fundraising event for Guy's and St Thomas' Charity, the St Thomas' Abseil, returned having taken a break in 2020 due to COVID-19. This year's event was the biggest and best yet, with almost 400 brave abseilers taking part and collectively raising almost £300,000.

We love to hear from our patients, staff and supporters so join the conversation by following us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

@EastEndKids (from Twitter) So proud of this kid! We had our very first MRI without General Anaesthesia yesterday and he aced it! I was bored senseless but he didn’t move for 45 mins! Big thank yous to Elouise from the Play team at @EvelinaLondon @NHSuk #NHSgotyourback

@LucyMangan (from Twitter) Thank you @GSTTnhs Children's A&E, especially Dr Emma, for dealing with my 10 year old's smashed teeth and face today. We are very grateful xxxx #ThankyouNHS

@DaveStephenson7 (from Twitter) @RBandH As always, the standard of care that I received as an outpatient at the Royal Brompton today was simply fantastic. The folk conducting the exercise test were fabulous, and the echo son-ographer an absolute delight. Thank you!!

@Beard001Denise (from Twitter) My husband had keyhole heart op today @GSTTnhs he was amazed by the brilliance of the surgeon and the care of the nursing team. Thank you for looking after him so well.

Staff and patients at St Thomas' Hospital can now take a break from the wards to enjoy working out at a new gym with spectacular riverside views.

The move is part of ongoing efforts at Guy's and St Thomas' to help staff recover from the impact of COVID-19, including wellbeing zones, and psychological and spiritual support.

The outdoor gym and movement garden, which is accessible for wheelchair users, overlooks the River Thames and Palace of Westminster.

It was built by The Great Outdoor Gym Company, who have installed more than 1,500 outdoor gyms across the world, including in London's Olympic Park and on Australia's Bondi beach.

Some of the equipment can convert the energy generated by users into electricity so that gym goers can charge their devices as they work out.

Funded by Guy's and St Thomas' Charity, the project was the brainchild of neonatal nurse Marie Hines who works at the hospital and is also a physical trainer.

Avey Bhatia, Chief Nurse at Guy's and St Thomas', said: "We know that getting outside and exercising has real benefits for our physical and mental health. Now, as we recover from the pandemic, focusing on our wellbeing has never been more important.

"It is absolutely fantastic that thanks to donations to Guy's and St Thomas' Charity we have such a great facility here at the hospital that people can use for free."

Exciting plans to build a bigger and even better children's hospital have been unanimously approved by Lambeth Council.

Since Evelina London Children's Hospital opened in 2005, the number of children and young people who visit has more than doubled.

The new building, joined to the existing children's hospital and set to open in 2027, will allow staff to continue to meet the needs of the sickest children with the most complex conditions from across the country.

It will also provide space to expand specialist heart and lung services as, subject to consultation, some children's services will move from Royal Brompton Hospital to Evelina London in around 6 years' time.

Marian Ridley, Director of Evelina London, said: "This is a huge step for us – it will allow us to continue with our exciting plans to grow the hospital into a world-leading centre of life-changing care for even more children, young people and their families."

A consultant at Guy's and St Thomas' was recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for her services to emergency medicine during COVID-19.

Dr Katherine Henderson was made an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire). She has been an emergency medicine consultant for more than 20 years and has worked at St Thomas' Hospital since 2006.

Dr Henderson became the first female President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in 2019.

She was instrumental in the redevelopment of the emergency department at St Thomas' Hospital, which was officially opened by The Princess Royal in 2018.

Dr Henderson said: "I am very pleased to receive this honour which I consider to be for all the emergency medicine teams who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.

"Emergency departments have been there 24/7 for everyone who needed to see a doctor or nurse face-to-face in whatever medical emergency they found themselves in."

Spotlight

Kelly Cook finds out about some of the things Guy's and St Thomas' is doing to become more environmentally friendly.

Guy's and St Thomas' has become the first NHS trust in the country to pilot a daily riverboat delivery service as part of plans to reduce its carbon footprint.

The Trust teamed up with CEVA Logistics and Livett's Group to trial the service on the River Thames.

If the pilot is successful, the service will operate on a larger scale, removing trucks from the capital's roads while providing a reliable delivery route into London during the day.

The Trust's 3 delivery trucks currently travel around 1,500 miles per week. For each truck removed from the road, approximately 708 kilograms of CO2 could be saved every week.

The service would help Guy's and St Thomas' work towards its aim of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and support the Mayor of London's aim to reduce the number of lorries and vans entering central London in the morning peak by 10% by 2026.

The riverboat service runs twice a day, 5 days a week. Parcels are loaded onto the boat at Dartford International Ferry Terminal in Kent, before making the journey to Butler's Wharf Pier in London.

The parcels, which include items such as clinical supplies for operating theatres, are then transported by electric cargo bike to Guy's Hospital.

David Lawson, Chief Procurement Officer for Guy's and St Thomas', said: "The riverboat pilot forms a key part in our ambition to remove over 40,000 truck deliveries from central London roads each year.

"We also want to encourage and support other organisations to adopt the use of zero emission delivery models to improve air quality for the communities that we serve."

In June 2021, Guy's and St Thomas' unveiled its sustainability strategy which sets out a clear path towards more sustainable healthcare for the next 10 years.

The pilot is just one of the initiatives that the Trust has introduced to help reduce its carbon footprint and to become more sustainable.

In 2019, the Trust worked with CEVA Logistics to open a consolidation supply chain hub in Dartford close to the M25, which has reduced the number of daily truck deliveries onto Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals by 90%.

The Trust is now planning to introduce 3 large electric trucks, which will transport items from the supply chain hub to the hospital sites.

Amy Butterworth Fernandes, sustainability manager, said: "At Guy's and St Thomas', we have long been aware of the close link between nature and health and wellbeing. In recent years we have built on that knowledge and now our sustainability strategy sets out a clear path for us to follow until 2031.

"We've made a great start but we know it’s not going to be easy. That's why we're going to be working with everyone at the Trust, including patients, staff, senior leaders and our community to get the help we need to put our mission into practice."

For more information about the Trust's sustainability work, visit our sustainability page.

Fast facts

  • pathology samples are delivered by cargo bike between Guy's Hospital and St Thomas' Hospital, replacing vans and motorbikes
  • 650 bike racks have been installed for staff, patients and visitors
  • more than 40,000 water bottles have been refilled on the Trust sites since installing 4 water fountains in 2018-19
  • a 'green screen' of ivy has been installed at the St Thomas' nursery to reduce pollution entering the playground
  • 2 electric vehicle charging points have been installed at Guy's Hospital

When David Randall's wife, Christina, suffered from cardiogenic shock in February 2021, he was relieved to find out that experts from Royal Brompton Hospital would be there to provide specialist care.

Cardiogenic shock is a life-threatening condition, where the heart is unable to pump enough blood around the body, leading to organ failure. Patients need immediate treatment to increase their chance of survival.

Moments after a planned caesarian section at Watford General Hospital, Christina's heart failed due to an amniotic fluid embolism, a rare but serious condition where the amniotic fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb during pregnancy enters the mother's bloodstream.

Royal Brompton's Shock Team collected Christina from Watford and took her back to Royal Brompton Hospital where she was placed on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, which takes over the function of the heart and lungs by pumping oxygenated blood around the body while a patient recovers.

David said: "I was still holding Christina's hand after the baby was delivered when she turned to me and said she couldn’t breathe. Watford said they would need to move her to Royal Brompton, but that she might not survive the journey.

"When I heard that, my world crumbled. People always tell me it's a miracle Christina survived, but it's definitely not. It's thanks to the experts at Royal Brompton, and for staff at Watford General for knowing who to call when it happened, that she survived and this story has a different ending. I was so grateful when she was home with me and the kids after just 2 weeks."

The Cardiogenic Shock Programme has been developed by teams at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals so that their specialist expertise and technology is available to patients no matter where they are.

Clinicians from the team advise colleagues from hospitals around the country about the various treatment options available to patients with cardiogenic shock. This can take place through an emergency virtual team meeting or, if necessary, the team will travel to where the patient is to deliver life-saving care.

When the patient is stable, they are brought to Royal Brompton or Harefield for ongoing treatment.

The Cardiogenic Shock Programme includes many groups of staff, including specialist nurses and perfusionists, cardiac and transplant surgeons, cardiologists and intensive care specialists.

Professor Susanna Price, who leads the service at Royal Brompton Hospital, said: "Our hospitals are uniquely placed to be able to offer this service as we have all the required expertise to provide assessment and management for the full range of complex cardiac conditions."

Fast fact

  • the Cardiogenic Shock Programme receives between 20 to 40 referrals every month

In focus

Maxine Hoeksma finds out how the refugees and asylum seekers service works with other health organisations, charities and GP practices to support some of the capital's most vulnerable people.

Aminata Diop has diabetes and high blood pressure and has lived in a hostel for almost two years alongside more than 150 people.

Originally from Senegal, the 47-year-old has been awaiting the outcome of her asylum seeker application since 2016.

While living with uncertainty proved even more challenging during lockdown, Aminata remains grateful for the support provided by Guy's and St Thomas' refugees and asylum seekers service.

She said: "One of the nurses, Jasmine, is a very good nurse and she talked to me about getting the vaccine because I am diabetic. During the lockdowns, Jasmine and my doctor would call and tell me that I needed to get out every day and go for walks in the park for exercise."

She added: "The team are excellent. They always want me to look after my health. They offer blood tests, eye test appointments and cervical smear tests. They always call me to find out whether I am checking my blood sugar too."

Aminata is one of around 1,300 people in south east London who may be helped by the refugees and asylum seekers service, which includes GPs, nurses, therapists and administrative staff.The team provide clinics in health centres, a hostel, day centres and hotels in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, working closely with other health organisations, charities, and GP practices.

People receive health screening for a range of conditions including tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and C, HIV and diabetes, and are supported to register with a local GP.

Carmen Rojas, manager of the team, said: "Our teams have specific skills in supporting people who have experienced significant challenges and sometimes very distressing events in their lives. For example, we are skilled in assessing and supporting situations in which people may have experienced female genital mutilation, torture, sexual exploitation or post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Our team also provide training for colleagues in other healthcare, social care and voluntary sector teams."

Dr Shazia Munir, a GP and Joint Clinical Lead for the refugees and asylum seekers service, said: "We aim to reduce presentations to A&E and support our local GPs, who are working so hard already.

"As GPs we've seen how social isolation through COVID-19 can affect the mental health of anybody. But for this group, with their extra vulnerabilities, the impact has been even bigger."

The team set up a 12-week mindfulness gardening group for asylum seekers and refugees, and were supported by the Lambeth GP Food Co-op.

The group practise mindfulness techniques and grow flowers and vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes and aloe vera. 

Martine Burke, a wellbeing practitioner who leads the group, said: "We create an opportunity for people to socialise with one another, to break away from the isolation of their day-to-day lives.

"When they experience unwanted thoughts, feelings or pain, they can use breathing or mindfulness movement practice as an anchor, to guide themselves back to the present moment. These techniques are particularly useful for managing fear, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and pain.

"Participants practise new skills and take these home with them, helping them to relax, sleep and function better. There is also ongoing support — they can call me and I call them during the week."

Clinically vulnerable nurses and doctors who were shielding and working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic made more than 15,000 calls to support patients.

The team of 12 staff from Guy's and St Thomas' were redeployed to the Nurse Doctor Caller team, a service set up to support a range of patients of all ages who were discharged from hospital.

They followed up with patients within 48 hours of them leaving hospital during the first wave of the pandemic, and supported people for up to 14 days after being discharged from hospital during the second wave.

The team focused particularly on people at greater risk of COVID-19, based on their age, ethnicity and whether they had other health conditions.

During the second wave, more than 1,280 patients with COVID-19 were closely monitored, with 50 fast-tracked for further assessment and treatment at St Thomas' Hospital.

Nikki Helder, lead nurse for the team, said: "I'm incredibly proud of the Nurse Doctor Caller team. These are nurses and doctors who were unable to work at our hospital and community sites during the first and second wave of the pandemic, but who were desperate to support their colleagues and patients at a time when the wards were incredibly busy.

"As well as keeping the discharged patients safe, they also provided updates for relatives by calling them twice a day, and providing reassurance for many patients and their loved ones."

Kelly Cook speaks to patients who have benefited from an innovative programme that is tackling waiting lists for non-urgent surgery.

Lidia Gonzalez had been in chronic pain since 2014 following a car accident.

The pain got worse during lockdown and scans showed that she needed a hip replacement, but the 49-year-old feared she could be waiting years for the procedure due to a nationwide backlog for surgery caused by the pandemic.

Thanks to an innovative new initiative at Guy's and St Thomas', Lidia was able to have her surgery within a few months.

Staff at the Trust have developed a super-efficient but safe programme to maximise the number of patients treated in 1 day.

They are using high intensity theatre lists – known as HIT lists – to help reduce the backlog for non-emergency surgery caused by the pandemic.

The HIT lists focus on 1 type of procedure at a time, and take place at weekends. They require careful planning to select suitable patients – and in most cases have been able to treat at least 3 times the number of patients compared to a regular surgical list.

Lidia, from Bermondsey, benefitted from the HIT list when 12 hip replacements took place in 1 day.

She said: "The care from start to finish was excellent. I'm getting my quality of life back and feel like a weight has been lifted – it’s a wonderful feeling to not be in pain every single day."

Between February and October 2021, the Trust held 10 HIT lists and treated more than 200 patients across a range of specialities, including gastrointestinal, gynaecology, orthopaedics and ear nose and throat.

The HIT lists have been led by Dr Imran Ahmad, consultant anaesthetist and deputy clinical director for anaesthesia and theatres.

Dr Ahmad said: "For many surgical procedures, the time required to perform the actual surgery is significantly less than the time spent preparing and anaesthetising the patient, setting up the equipment and helping the patient to recover – in some cases the operating time can be as little as 30% of the duration of the whole operating list.

"We have looked at every aspect of the patient's pathway in detail to see where we can safely improve on efficiency and save time, increasing the surgeon's operating time and reducing non-operative time. The process requires a dedicated team and lots of preparation and this is the key to our success."

Andy Cohen, a doctor from Bermondsey, was one of the patients who benefited from the HIT list for a hernia repair, which saw 19 patients treated in 1 day.

The 53-year-old said: "I knew I would need surgery but I expected to wait 18 months to 2 years because of the pandemic. I was really surprised that the procedure was scheduled 6 weeks later as part of the HIT list.

"It was incredibly busy on the day and everybody was there for the same procedure. Everything ran very smoothly and was really efficient. The nurses and surgeon were fantastic and even though there were lots of us, I felt like I was getting individual attention."

How do the HIT lists work?

  • by increasing the number of anaesthetic, surgical and theatre staff to minimise the turnaround time between cases, making more time available for the surgeon to operate
  • using 2 theatres and 3 teams allows the surgeon to go between cases without having to wait for the patient – this means many more cases can be done in the same time period
  • several meetings are required to plan each HIT list and to select suitable patients and team members
  • to plan the equipment and the order of the lists, managers, administration staff, therapists, nurses, pharmacists, anaesthetists and surgeons must work closely together

Daisy Holden meets a teenager who not only benefitted from pioneering robotic surgery, but a partnership between teams to deliver a first of its kind.

Hugo Pattison was 14 years old when he was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer in February 2021.

After undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumour and chemotherapy at his local hospital, Hugo was transferred to Evelina London for specialist treatment.

The Norfolk-based teenager had robotic surgery to remove potentially enlarged cancerous lymph nodes from the back of his abdomen at the end of June.

He was the first teenager to have robotic surgery at Evelina London and to receive this type of procedure by surgical robot in the UK.

Instead of a lengthy 6-month recovery period with conventional surgery, Hugo was back playing cricket with his friends within 3 weeks.

Hugo said: "I feel incredibly lucky to be the first young patient to undergo robotic surgery at Evelina London. I am so relieved to have avoided the significant scarring and recovery time that would have come from open surgery.

"Hopefully it means that other children can receive this procedure in the future."

Ben Challacombe, consultant urological surgeon and clinical robotic surgery lead at Guy's and St Thomas', operated on Hugo.

He said: "It was a huge team effort to make Hugo's surgery happen, bringing a specialist clinical team over from Guy's Hospital and designing new clinical protocols as not all adult surgical procedures are available for paediatrics.

"This 5-hour operation was an excellent collaboration of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses across Guy's Hospital, St Thomas' Hospital and Evelina London. Hugo's surgery paves the way for the future of paediatric robotic surgery."

Typically, removing lymph nodes from the back of the abdomen after chemotherapy is a major open operation with a number of potential complications and patients face months of recovery. As a leading centre for robotic surgery in the UK, Hugo was transferred to the Trust to have his procedure using the robot, which is less invasive and allows patients to recover far more quickly. 

Hugo's dad Arthur said: "We knew Hugo's surgery needed to go ahead but the risks and the recovery time for major open surgery didn't sit well with us. We were already conscious of how much he had missed through lockdown and then through his chemotherapy treatment. We were determined to minimise the disruption to Hugo's summer of sport and outdoor activities. For us, this is such an important part of his mental wellbeing.

"We felt Ben and his team really addressed Hugo's concerns around open surgery. We were supported every step of the journey. Having robotic surgery allowed Hugo to leave hospital just two days after his surgery and he was back playing cricket with his teammates just three weeks later."

Lance Tooke, clinical director for paediatric surgery at Evelina London, said: "I'm really proud of the adult and paediatric teams that worked together so that Hugo had the best care Guy's and St Thomas' could offer.

"We're excited to support Ben Challacombe and the children's urology service to continue developing our paediatric robotics service."

Fast fact

  • testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 49, with around 2,400 men diagnosed in the UK each year

Guy's and St Thomas' is the first NHS trust in London to use a new robotic surgery system.

The Versius robot, built in Cambridge by CMR Surgical, will mainly be used to treat cancer patients.

Versius has been designed so that the individual robotic arms can be moved between hospital sites and departments.

This means that a number of different procedures can be performed efficiently across the Trust's busy operating theatres, and more patients will have access to innovative robotic technology.

During a robotic procedure, surgeons control the robot's arms while sitting at a console in the same room with a 3D HD view.

The robot is already helping surgeons to perform prostate and kidney removal and will be used for colorectal, general and thoracic surgeries in the future.

Versius will complement the Trust's existing fleet of Intuitive da Vinci robots in what is the largest robotic surgery programme in the UK.

Prokar Dasgupta, professor of surgery and honorary consultant urological surgeon at Guy's and St Thomas', said: "We have pioneered the use of robotic technology in the UK. With our latest addition, even more patients awaiting surgery in London will be able to receive high quality care using the latest technology."

As Guy's and St Thomas' celebrates the third term of its NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Anna Perman asks its incoming Director, Professor Robin Ali, what this means for patients.

Q: What are Biomedical Research Centres?

Biomedical Research Centres turn research into new treatments for patients. The centres are a partnership between an NHS trust and a university and our partner is King's College London. They are funded by the National Institute for Health Research, and we were one of the first to be set up in 2007. We have received 3 rounds of funding and, so far, have been awarded £170 million.

Q: What does our centre provide?

Our centre provides researchers with cutting edge technologies and facilities, ranging from laboratories to specialist ward areas and expert research staff to undertake the work. Our clinical research facilities support patients taking part in clinical trials. Guy's Hospital has a specialised unit for testing treatments for the first time in humans. This means we meet the highest safety standards to keep those taking part safe. We also have a unit at Evelina London Children's Hospital. We provide training and funding for staff to develop their research skills, and all of this helps to move research projects and ideas into better treatment for patients more quickly.

Q: What are you particularly proud of?

A key focus for us has been advanced therapies. Some of these therapies involve taking a patient's own cells, altering them and putting them back into the body to treat cancer and immune diseases. This year our centre opened a specialist facility to speed up the development of advanced therapies. I am very proud of how our teams have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, including setting up a mobile clinical research facility for vaccine studies. We supported work on post-COVID lung scarring, which affects many people recovering from COVID-19. Our experts developed an advanced therapy using patients' own cells to reverse this scarring which is now being tested in a clinical trial. Other advances include a same-day test that identifies secondary infections in intensive care patients in hours rather than days.

Q: What does the future hold?

I look forward to enhancing our expertise in heart and lung disease, following our merger with Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals in February 2021. Our centre has led in the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and imaging in health research. Recent examples include imaging to diagnose heart disease before birth and using machine learning to find the best position in the chest for a pacemaker. I am certain that in the coming years we will see greater use of AI in healthcare, with high powered computers speeding up research. I am excited that we are part of this work, which we hope will improve care for our patients.

Q: How can our readers get involved?

We always look to find new ways to involve patients and volunteers in our research. Our centre has 13 patient and public involvement groups, where patients meet with researchers to advise on designing and delivering our research. We also have a Young People's Advisory Group for younger people to get involved in our research activities. We inspire researchers of the future through summer schools, where young people find out about science and the incredible career opportunities it offers.

Fast facts

  • our Biomedical Research Centre supported Guy's and St Thomas' COVID-19 research. The Trust has hosted 110 COVID-19 studies, recruiting over 19,000 patients
  • in 2017, the centre's researchers developed an easy to make, safe radioactive dye that highlights tumours during scans. It means more patients will have access to high-quality lifesaving treatment
  • over 200 GCSE students have attended the King's Health Partners Summer School since 2017
  • in 2020, work supported by the centre developed an app that helps identify and treat women who are more likely to give birth prematurely

The interview

Kelly Cook and Shammi Anand meet Grace Spence Green and Ras Kahai to find out how Guy's and St Thomas' is improving accessibility for patients, staff and visitors.

Q: What is your role at the Trust?

Grace: I'm a junior doctor in general medicine at St Thomas' Hospital. I know the halls and wards well, having rolled through them many times as a medical student. I'm really passionate about reducing stigma and increasing representation of disabled people. Every day I get mistaken for a patient – it's tiring but not something I take offence to. I want to emphasise that disabled people have jobs, lives and families – they are not just being cared for.

Ras: I'm a cardiorespiratory dietitian at Royal Brompton Hospital. As co-chair of the staff Disability and Wellness Network (DAWN) for Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, I've worked hard to change the hearts and minds of others around how disabled people are viewed. Guy's and St Thomas' also has a staff Disability and Long Term Health Conditions Forum. Both groups are open to people with all kinds of disabilities, as well as allies.

Q: What are some of the challenges you face?

Grace: It's exhausting reminding people that I need adjustments in order to make the places I visit accessible. Some adjustments for disabled people are with the view that you'll have an able bodied person with you, but that isn't independence to me. It's not a 'me' problem, it’s a problem with the building.

Ras: I get a bus to work but found that the bus drivers were unable to get close enough to the curb for the ramp to deploy. I got in touch with Transport for London and the local council and they agreed to create a larger bus stop. It's reduced my commuting stress and will hopefully help other wheelchair users who visit the hospital. Also, as healthcare workers we need to dispose of items every day, which usually go into a pedal bin. They are not accessible for wheelchair users so I've been trialling alternative adapted bins.

Q: What's being done to improve accessibility?

Grace: Anything that can be done to help a patient prepare for a visit to hospital can make it less daunting. The Trust has worked with AccessAble to provide detailed information and guides for all departments, wards and services at Guy's Hospital, St Thomas' Hospital, the Cancer Centre at Guy's, our community services and Evelina London Children's Hospital. Also, Guy's Hospital and St Thomas' Hospital have both installed a fully accessible Changing Places toilet for patients, staff and visitors.

Ras: I've worked closely with Director Robert Craig and estates general manager, Chris Rivers, to prioritise making physical changes to the buildings. It takes several months for the surveyors from AccessAble to map out all the corridors, wards, parking facilities, clinics and public areas. We're currently working with them to create guides for Royal Brompton Hospital, Harefield Hospital and the Wimpole Street private care facility. We're also planning to install a Changing Places toilet at Harefield Hospital.

Q: Tell us about the projects you're involved in.

Grace: When I'm with my colleagues they instantly start noticing more about accessibility around the building. They see the world through my eyes which is really important. I'm working on a disability module with King's College London for medical students in their fourth year, which will involve teaching sessions and speakers.

Ras: A ramp doesn't equal access as many adjustments are needed to make a building accessible. I've created the 'wheelchair challenge' where I invite one of the Trust's directors to spend 90 minutes with me in a wheelchair. I've had a fantastic response and been able to highlight that mobility aids, which give disabled people independence, only work when the rest of the hospital environment improves.

Q: What are your hopes for the future?

Grace: I don't want to be labelled 'inspirational' just for doing something ordinary, like going to the shops. I would like people to be inspired by me to work towards more accessible futures, and to think about where adaptations, such as ramps, are needed because everywhere needs to be accessible.

Ras: Unfortunately, the world isn't built with accessibility in mind so it's everyone's responsibility to help improve access. For wheelchair users, life rolls on and we want to be able to have the same experiences, whether we are walking or rolling.

Trust life

5 years after appearing on the front cover of the GiST, Syeda Mannan tells Daisy Holden why she considers the staff at St Thomas' Hospital to be part of her family.

Syeda Mannan was 20 years old when a devastating illness left her with both legs amputated above the knee and without eight fingertips.

She was only a teenager when diagnosed with lupus, an incurable condition that affects the immune system, and Raynaud's phenomenon which causes your fingers and toes to turn numb and white.

The 26-year-old said: "In October 2015, my health deteriorated and I had a severe allergic reaction after suffering from a fungal infection. I went downhill and into septic shock."

Several of her organs, including her liver, heart and lungs, failed while she was being transferred to St Thomas' Hospital and she went into a coma. Her legs were amputated to save her life.

After spending 5 months recovering in hospital and a further 14 weeks of rehabilitation, Syeda returned to university where she graduated from her final year studying politics and law.

Syeda said: "My final year of university was hard, and straight after graduating I went back to St Thomas' for around 6 months because I was suffering with seizures. But I didn't let it get me down. I kept up with my physiotherapy, learning how to walk again and regain my strength, determined to have the best future."

In 2018, Syeda got engaged to Samsul and more than 150 staff from St Thomas' Hospital attended their wedding the following summer.

Syeda said: "St Thomas' is like my second home and the staff I've met along the way have become like family. My proudest moment was being able to walk down the aisle without my crutches and holding my bouquet with my mum and dad on either side of me. It was a dream come true."

Fast-forward to May 2021, Syeda and Samsul welcomed a baby boy into their lives.

Syeda said: "My son Ahiyaan was born in May. Due to my auto-immune condition I was classed as a high risk pregnancy but knew straight away I wanted to be looked after by the maternity team at St Thomas'.

"I had a relatively easy pregnancy despite being very anxious. I had extra scans to check how the baby was growing and was so fortunate to have the same midwife, Sophie Tewkesbury, throughout my whole pregnancy – it was very reassuring."

Every antenatal appointment Sophie would be there – and just by luck she happened to be the midwife on duty when I went into labour and stayed after her shift to deliver my baby. My dad chose my son's name, it means 'gift from God' in Arabic which perfectly describes him."

Syeda added: "One of the ICU nurses who played a part in saving my life in 2015, Ana Alves, heard about the birth of my son and waited by the hospital doors with balloons to greet me as we were discharged.

"The care I've received from St Thomas' has been incredible. I truly believe the reason I had a stress-free pregnancy and delivery was because I knew I was being looked after by the best hospital and medical professionals in the country. Over the last 7 years, they've been right beside me and my family, every step of the way."

Nina Khazaezadeh, interim head of midwifery at Guy's and St Thomas', said: "Providing continuity of care where possible, and individualised care, is a core part of a midwife's role. I'm delighted for Syeda and grateful to her for sharing her story, as it demonstrates how our midwives support every woman and their partner to develop a personalised care plan, with relevant health professionals."

Diane Wallis, administrator in St Thomas' anaesthetic department.

Q: What does your job involve?

I manage the roster for consultant anaesthetists working in theatres at St Thomas' Hospital, matching their specialist skills to patients' needs.

Q: How has your role changed?

I started in the anaesthetic department 34 years ago – as only the third administrator there since the department was founded in 1947. At that time I was working for 13 consultant anaesthetists and now there are more than 140. I used to use an electric typewriter and carbon paper to make copies – there were no cut, paste or delete buttons. Daily rotas were done with paper, pencil and eraser; now everything is electronic. When email was introduced, my colleague and I announced we didn't think we would be using those. Smoking was allowed anywhere in the hospital and some consultants smoked at their desks. Now it is banned on hospital grounds.

Q: What's your favourite part of the role?

The job has been a joy, but it's the people you are surrounded by and work with every day who help you to thrive, to achieve great things and who make everything so very worthwhile.

Q: How did you get into this?

While I was temping at the Churchill Clinic, the anaesthetic secretary at St Thomas' handed in her notice. The then-chairman of the department lost no time in asking me if I would apply for the job, was relentless in his efforts to cajole me and eventually asked me just to look at the anaesthetic department. I reluctantly agreed and the rest, as they say, is history.

Amberley Lewis, learning disability dental nurse at Guy's Hospital.

I am part of the dental team and provide support to patients with learning disabilities, making sure they get the best possible experience when visiting us.

I became a dental nurse 8 years ago and, after noticing there were many patients with learning disabilities, I put myself on an advanced course to learn more about people with disabilities.

When I saw the learning disability dental nurse role advertised at Guy's and St Thomas', it couldn't have been more perfect for me.

My brother has a disability so I had early exposure to people with a learning disability, giving me first hand experiences of some of the challenges they may face when accessing care.

I look at each patient as an individual and find out their needs and how best to support them. I assess any potential triggers which may make them distressed and make reasonable adjustments to work around them.

Sometimes it's simple – some of my patients are extremely light sensitive so I make sure the dental lights aren't shining in their eyes. I also work with different teams to make sure patients are fully looked after, which includes helping them get a blood test, the COVID-19 vaccination or an ultrasound. I absolutely love my busy paced role. We can now offer more personalised care for those with learning disabilities. It feels really good to know that the work I've done to support our patients means they are able to get the dental care they need.

History corner

Maxine Lenza shines a light on Royal Brompton Hospital, which has 180 years' experience in respiratory disease and is now a centre of excellence in heart health.

Royal Brompton Hospital started out as a tuberculosis hospital in 1841.

It was set up by 25-year-old solicitor, Philip Rose, who was shocked to discover that one of his clerks who had the disease was unable to gain admission to any hospital in London.

At the time, general hospitals were reluctant to admit and treat people with tuberculosis due to the fear of the disease spreading.

Rose leased a house in Chelsea, and in 1842 the Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest opened. It quickly became clear that a larger hospital was needed, so Rose set out to build a hospital especially suited to the needs of tuberculosis patients.

In 1855, the new hospital building on Fulham Road was completed and 27 years later, in 1882, the South Block was opened thanks to a substantial donation from a local resident.

By 1894 the College of Physicians and Surgeons recognised the Brompton as a place of medical study, and to this day, doctors, nurses and other health professionals from around the world come to the hospital to learn.

During the Second World War, the Brompton was designated as one of the principal casualty-clearing stations in the area for seriously wounded cases.

During the Blitz, the hospital was seriously affected twice – on one occasion the roof and upper floor of the North Block (the original hospital built by Rose) were damaged by fire when bombs fell nearby, and then, in 1942, the nurses' home and south wing were badly damaged by a blast from a landmine.

When the war ended and the NHS was formed, drugs to treat tuberculosis were introduced so the workload and focus of the hospital gave way to new interests – including the study of other chest conditions.

Then, in 1991, the Sydney Wing was opened by The Queen and the hospital was granted Royal Charter.

Research, innovation and education have been constant themes at the hospital, and over the decades doctors from the hospital have made substantial contributions to the field of medicine. One example is the famous Brompton cocktail – a mixture of morphine, cocaine, alcohol, syrup and chloroform water – given in the terminal stages of certain illnesses for pain relief. The mixture was used for almost a century before modern pain killers took its place.

In the late 1980s, the Brompton pack was developed – the first ventilatory support machine replacing the traditional 'iron lung' which saw patients confined to hospital. It prolonged the lives of many patients who needed help with their breathing and has evolved into a mask and a small portable machine.

Nowadays, the hospital carries out some of the most complicated heart and lung surgery and procedures available anywhere in the world. It is the only specialist heart and lung unit in the country that treats both adults and children.

Joy Godden, Director of Nursing at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, said: "For me, the importance of our history is the strength that it gives us now. This includes expertise across many different disciplines, alongside research, education and training, which allows us to attract pioneers and innovators.

"All of this is done to improve care for our heart and lung patients now and in the future."

Foundation Trust life

Jordan Abdi explains why he is passionate about health technology and how it can benefit patients.

The Council of Governors ensures that patients, members of the public, staff and partner organisations have a say in shaping their local health service.

Jordan Abdi stood for election in July 2021 and is one of 8 public governors.

He is a medical doctor and has been working in health technology for the past 9 years both in the UK and China.

Jordan, from Southwark, said: "I wanted to become a governor because I've missed having that connection to the NHS and wanted to give something back to the community.

"It's a really exciting time to see how my background can support the Trust as it prepares to launch a new electronic health record, which will be an amazing system for patient centred care."

Jordan believes there are lots of opportunities to use data and artificial intelligence to improve services.

He said: "Health technology has the potential to completely transform how we interact with healthcare and look after ourselves, but patient safety and trust need to remain at the centre of innovation.

"Guy's and St Thomas' is a global health technology leader and I hope to use my experience and skills to make sure the Trust continues to bring patients and the public along with it on that journey."

Jordan is encouraging more people to become members of the Trust.

He said: "There's so many amazing things that are organised so that members can have a deeper view of what is going on at the Trust. If you care about the NHS and the future of the NHS, do become a member."

The governors are your elected representatives and are keen to hear your views.

If you have a question, comment or idea please email govern[email protected] or call 020 7188 7346.

To reduce costs and care for our environment, most of our member communication is via email.

Please share your email address if you would like to receive monthly updates from the Trust, as well as invitations to our members' only webinars.

If your postal address or contact details have changed, email [email protected].

If you are a member of Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, please email [email protected].

Andy Wood reveals who inspired him to become a member after his wife was cared for at Royal Brompton Hospital.

Guy's and St Thomas' counts on its members for feedback, local knowledge and support.

The membership is made up of thousands of patients, carers, staff and local people who can vote in the Council of Governors elections.

Andy Wood decided to become a member after seeing first-hand the incredible care his wife, Leigh, received at Royal Brompton Hospital.

Leigh sadly died in October 2019, aged 48. She received treatment at the hospital for over 40 years for pulmonary hypertension and Eisenmenger syndrome, a rare condition that affects both the heart and the lungs.

Andy, from Cranleigh in Surrey, said: "Leigh had a fantastic clinical team, I can't praise them enough. She called her clinical nurse specialist, Carl Harries, her guardian angel. He encouraged me to become a member and I have tried to be involved ever since. COVID-19 really restricted that, but I joined online meetings and seminars where I could."

He added: "Consultant cardiologist Professor Kostas Dimopoulos was an absolute star to Leigh, and Dr John Wort was brilliant – becoming a member was my way of saying thank you."

Andy, a maintenance supervisor, also joined the Patient and Public Engagement Group and is encouraging more people to get involved with the Trust. He said: "The more members, the more input you have. I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested to join. If you can make another patient’s life easier that can only be a good thing."

To become a member call 0800 731 0319, email [email protected] or visit our membership page.

For Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals call 020 7352 8121, email [email protected] or visit the Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals website becoming a member page

Do you want to help shape the future of Guy's and St Thomas'?

We're looking for patients, carers and Foundation Trust members to help us:

  • design our new building for Evelina London
  • improve our heart and lung services
  • improve our cancer services
  • develop our plans for nursing and midwifery
  • design healthcare technology, like electronic records and phone apps
  • implement our surgical strategy

How do I get involved or find out more?

You can sign up to our mailing list to receive updates on the areas that interest you. To sign up, visit our patient and public involvement page.

If you have any questions, email [email protected] or call 020 7188 6808.

Do I need to come to hospital or community sites to take part?

To help keep everyone safe, all activities are currently held online, by telephone, or by post. We will adapt activities to help you take part wherever we can.

Get involved in COVID-19 recovery projects

During the pandemic we have seen a rapid transformation of services. Visit our recovery programme page to read about 3 new COVID-19 recovery projects that you can get involved in.

You can also read about our survey of 1,501 patients and carers, to better understand people's attitudes and behaviours to accessing services during the pandemic.

For all the latest news about our amazing fundraisers and how you can support Guy's, St Thomas' and Evelina London, follow @GSTTCharity on Twitter and like the GSTTCharity Facebook page and evelinalondonchildrenscharity Facebook page.

If you need medical help you should still contact your GP practice, use NHS 111 online or call 111.

If you are told to go to hospital it's important that you go to hospital.

We'll give you the care you need.

Last updated: March 2022

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