I have been moved and impressed beyond measure by what staff here at UCLH have achieved during the pandemic, and I continue to be awestruck by everyone’s work.
But now we’re wondering what life after lockdown will be like. What are all the long term complications from COVID and how will our brilliant teams continue to help these patients? Will the need to clear waiting lists mean that we feel we’re under pressure, even if it’s a different kind of pressure from before? And will we have time to let our minds make sense of what we’ve just been through, understand what the pandemic made us feel and how it made us act, and celebrate the good? And recognise that we’ll need to restore calm again?
On a practical level, one of the important things we are doing right now is to help vaccinate as many people as possible to protect them against COVID-19. Millions of people have had the jab in London, many of those at our UCLH-led mass vaccination centres. If you haven’t had yours yet there’s still time. Our teams are also bringing the vaccine to hard-to-reach communities via the roving vaccination bus which you can read more about further down.
There has been a lot of talk lately about ‘recovery’, as the adrenalin fueled months make way for some semblance of a return to normal. The ‘new normal’ means we must continue to work with other organisations across London to be prepared for any future surges. And as COVID infection rates are low, we need to treat those non-COVID patients with the greatest clinical need as quickly as possible and help bring down waiting list times.
Against this backdrop, we have pioneered new ways of diagnosing cancer, opened our new Grafton Way Building for surgical patients and looked at ways of making hospital visits less stressful for our young patients.
There is always so much to do. We never lose sight of the impact this pandemic has had on many of our staff. We are doing all we can to support their well-being and recovery and encourage them to get some rest and somehow reset the clock. The success of UCLH depends on them. On behalf of the entire Board of UCLH, our thanks to them all for everything they are doing - it really is remarkable.
Julia Neuberger, chair
Sponge on a string used to detect cancer at UCLH
In a world first, patients at UCLH are swallowing a sponge on a string to test for cancer.
The Cytosponge is a sponge that collects cells from inside the oesophagus to detect and monitor Barrett’s Oesophagus, a condition where cells start growing abnormally and can lead to cancer.
Dr Rehan Haidry, a consultant gastroenterologist, has been involved in several research studies examining the use of the Cytosponge over the past 10 years. He implemented it with the help of his colleagues in response to the impact of COVID on endoscopy services.
The Cytosponge is given to the patient inside a pill, which is the size of a multi-vitamin tablet, attached to a string. The patient swallows the pill, keeping hold of the string. Once in the stomach, the pill capsule dissolves in less than eight minutes releasing the sponge. The string is then gently pulled out of the patient’s mouth by the nurse to remove the sponge. As the Cytosponge is removed, the sponge collects cells from the entire length of the oesophagus.
Massimo Cierzo, 61 (pictured), a builder from Hertfordshire, has Barrett’s oesophagus. He was one of the first patients to have a Cytosponge procedure instead of the usual endoscopy.
He said: “Having an endoscopy is uncomfortable and not a pleasant procedure. It also requires sedation so you have to rely on someone else to take you home afterwards
“I was very lucky to try the Cytosponge and it was a much better experience. It was still a bit uncomfortable when the sponge is pulled out, but not as bad as an endoscopy. It was also quicker than an endoscopy and I was able to drive home as I didn’t need sedation.”
Sally Thorpe, clinical nurse specialist at UCLH, said: “The procedure takes less than 10 minutes, from instructing the patient to collecting the cells. In contrast, an endoscopy and biopsy can take up to an hour.
“It is very simple to use and well tolerated by patients - the only side effect is a mild sore throat.”
Capsule cameras detecting cancer
The UCLH endoscopy team is also at the cutting edge of technology and is now using a capsule camera to test for colon cancer.
The camera, which is no bigger than a pill, is swallowed by the patient at home and a diagnosis can be made within hours.
Ed Seward, clinical lead for the colon capsule endoscopy at UCLH, said: “Colon capsule is a new innovation and involves swallowing a camera pill that takes pictures of the bowel as it passes through. These pictures are beamed to a recording device that the patient wears at their waist.
“The colon capsule increases our diagnostic capacity, because it doesn’t require the resources of a dedicated hospital space to do the examination. It also allows us to do the examination while the patient is at home.”
Keen footballer Stephen Hunt was among the first to have robotic surgery to repair his damaged knees in the new University College Hospital Grafton Way Building.
He said: “The brand new hospital is beautiful, spotlessly clean and very modern. The staff were fantastic and you could really feel the sense of pride they felt in their new hospital. I continue to recover well – I might not get back on the football pitch in quite the same way but sometime in the not so distant future is a very realistic possibility.”
The hospital opened for surgery, critical care and imaging services in April 2021 as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to recede.
The hospital opened for surgery, critical care and imaging services in April 2021 as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to recede.
Stephen said: “I’ve always been a keen footballer and have done a bit of cycling. At 57, my knees were telling me it was time to stop. I was referred to UCLH and was told I’d need both knees replaced.
“I had robot-assisted surgery on both knees at the same time. I was talked through how the three-hour procedure would be done, using the robot and 3D scanning technology to guide the surgery during the operation, which offers more precision.”
Prof. Geoff Bellingan, medical director for the Surgery and Cancer Board, said: “We worked extremely hard to finish the hospital, as we wanted to have this extra capacity, in a separate COVID-19 secure hospital available as soon as possible. The final construction phase and the clinical preparations to open all took place during the pandemic and we faced unprecedented challenges. These ranged from changing ways of working, to keeping the workforce safe, to getting equipment in from overseas.”
We work closely with our health and social care partnersfairest way, to everyone living in our area. UCLH is the lead coordinating provider for the planned ear nose and throat (ENT) network and the Grafton Way Building is the main centre for adult ENT surgery for the sector.
We are also part of the North Central London Elective Orthopaedic Network. It is made up of two partnerships - UCLH with Whittington Health NHS Trust, and North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust - alongside the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust which is providing super specialist surgery. Clinicians work together, have joint training, and hospitals can share their facilities, opening up access to more dedicated beds and operating theatres.
Patients being treated through the UCLH and Whittington Health partnership will have their outpatient appointments at either hospital, and day surgery will also take place at both. Patients who need to stay overnight in hospital will be treated at UCLH. All surgery at UCLH will take place in the new Grafton Way Building. Outpatient and radiology appointments will continue on all sites.
Background photo: Paul Raftery courtesy of Bouygues UK
THE HEALING POWER OF ART
UCLH’s latest hospital building in Grafton Way is an example of how great art and interior design can make a visit to hospital feel so much better.
When you arrive at one of our hospitals, stop for a moment. Look around. The chances are you will see light, elements of nature, calming colours and art in many forms. Our hospitals are designed to create a safe haven away from the grit and grime of the city.
Artwork can lift the spirits and help patients to recover
“Artwork can lift the spirits and help patients to recover,” said UCLH arts curator Guy Noble. “UCLH has opened several new hospitals in past years and all include integrated art works which we hope create a distraction from the anxieties of being in a hospital and bring comfort to those who visit or work here.”
On arrival at the Grafton Way Building, visitors are greeted by translucent textile banners suspended in two groups of three from the atrium’s 21 metre-high ceiling. This is just one of many eye-catching art installations to be seen throughout the Grafton Way Building and elsewhere in wards and departments across UCLH hospitals. Murals of nature scenes, light installations, mosaics, art exhibitions: next time you visit UCLH, stop! Look around!
The arts also play an important part in improving staff wellbeing. For example, during the pandemic the ‘Creative Comforts’ arts programme was launched to encourage those working long and intense hours from home during lockdown, to take a short relaxing and creative break. Staff could access origami sessions, choose to have their portrait sketched during a zoom call or doodle on colouring sheets. Creative Comforts has been shortlisted for an International Arts in Health Foundation Award.
Photo (on the left): UCLH arts curator Guy Noble and assistant arts curator apprentice Laura Bradshaw. The work by artist Dryden Goodwin explores the relationship between patients, loved ones and clinicians, featuring six people from the hospital’s haematology community.
A day in the life
Bobby Garcia - emergency department nurse
There is no typical day. I never know who will be coming through the door, says nurse Bobby Garcia
A typical day?
It could be a complex case like major trauma, stroke or heart attack to minor injuries such as a cut hand and a wound that needs cleaning.
I’m also part of the triage team which assesses around 300-400 patients a day. We take their vital signs such as respiratory rate, saturation levels, pulse and temperature. You need a good clinical eye to prioritise which patients need the most immediate attention.
Why did you choose to work in the emergency department?
There is no other place for me to be. A&E is where I belong!
I like working with very unwell patients; it is the essence of nursing for me. It’s an adrenaline-infused atmosphere and can be very intense but I’m a pretty ‘chill’ person and so it suits me. I don’t get flustered and always try to gather my thoughts and carry out multiple tasks in an organised manner.
What kind of skills do you need?
To stay calm in the busiest moments. Do a thorough assessment, prioritise, keep a clear mind. And be kind, it goes a long way for your patients and colleagues.
You’ve worked at UCLH for five years. Any particularly memorable patients?
An older lady who was struggling to breathe. I could see the anxiety in her eyes. I held her hand and said “you are not alone. We are all here for you”. To be able to help her feel better was a great feeling.
There was a delivery man who was in a residential lift which plummeted to the ground. The patient walked in through our front door which was pretty unusual after such an accident. He was given a full body scan and referred to a major trauma centre. It brings me satisfaction to help deliver emergency care when someone’s life is threatened.
It’s been a tough year. Any positives?
There was a feeling “we are all in this together, let’s try to treat everyone we meet with kindness”.
What would you say to someone thinking of a career in A&E?
I say go for it! There’s a great team spirit. It’s not going to be an easy job but you will never be bored. You will meet all kinds of patients, gain invaluable knowledge from various specialties and develop your critical thinking skills. So, if you like a fast-paced workplace and continuous learning, A&E is the place to be.
We have some exciting job opportunities for band 6 nurses on our emergency department and critical care. For more information please email the recruitment team Yathursana.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or visit our website at www.uclh.nhs.uk/jobs.
Professor of sport and exercise medicineWe
From helping the homeless to supporting Olympic boxing: the diverse legacy of the 2012 Olympics
The pandemic may have cast doubt over the future of the Japanese Olympic Games in Tokyo, but here in London we are lucky to still be benefiting from ours, a decade later. The London 2012 Olympics are still giving back to the community.
The Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH), in Tottenham Court Road, was established as one of three National Centres for Sport and Exercise Medicine following the London Olympics.
Mike Loosemore, professor of sport and exercise medicine at the institute (pictured above), said: “We look after everyone from Olympic sports people through to an older person with arthritis who still wants to exercise.”
The ISEH, which sees around 6,000 NHS patients each year, works with specialist teams at UCLH, including cancer, diabetes, maternity and vascular, to help their patients take part in physical activities safely.
It also undertakes research on professional sports people: a recent study looked at ways of improving the respiratory health of athletes, many of whom are prone to illnesses such as asthma and COVID-19.
From cyclists who breathe in polluted air, to swimmers who inhale swimming pool chemicals, the research suggests that we can improve the health of 60 per cent of elite athletes.
Our team also works with 88 schools across the country, inspiring children to leave behind their laptops and get more physically active.
They have recently linked up with a charity to encourage homeless people to get involved in a sport or activity, such as football or playing chess, and to give them a medical examination at the same time. So far, 400 homeless people in London have benefited.
Mike added: “When you are homeless, you often feel isolated and alone. Encouraging these people to take part in a sport or activity helps alleviate some of these feelings which is better for their mental wellbeing.
“By giving them a medical we can also pick up any health issues and get them treated, as well as using data to build up a larger picture of what health challenges they face. We can then use this to target healthcare for homeless people much more effectively.”
The ISEH is a partnership between UCLH, HCA Healthcare UK, UCL, the English Institute of Sport and the British Olympic Association.
“THE CARERS’ WORLD IS MY WORLD”
Ros Jacobs is passionate about her role as a governor, representing carers and their view of UCLH and the services we provide. As a life-long carer for her 30-yearold daughter Natasha, she is the perfect woman for the job. Her daughter, who was born with an extremely rare genetic condition, has been a patient at UCLH for more than a decade: a decade filled with hospital appointments, treatments and consultations. She is full of praise for the support they have both received, describing our UCLH specialists as ‘respectful, understanding and full of empathy.’ But there is still work to be done.
Ros said: “The carers’ world is my world and the patient experience is my experience too. All carers are on the same page. We are tired and we want life to be made as simple as possible for us! As a governor, I can suggest improvements and help shape any changes. One of the many strengths of UCLH is that people listen and are prepared to try to change those things that could be done better.”
Ros, from North London, first became a UCLH carergovernor nine years ago and, after a gap, was re-elected again in January. Ros is also a trustee of the Friends of UCLH.
Whether it’s lobbying for more car parking spaces, highlighting the importance of good access to our hospital buildings or suggesting ways of improving communication between specialist teams and colleagues elsewhere in the hospital, Ros remains the carers’ champion.
If you are a carer and would like to contact Ros please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are 33 governors on the UCLH Council: 13 representing our patient and carer members and 5 representing our public members, as well as 6 staff governors and 9 stakeholder governors.