New sleep unit set to help 1,000 children each year

A new state-of-the-art children’s sleep and ventilation unit was opened last night at Royal Brompton Hospital by Greg Hands, M.P.

Greg said: “This is my seventh visit here and I am delighted to be here again. I am very proud to open the sleep centre and congratulations to everyone involved in making this unit possible.”

The unit, representing an investment of close to £1 million, will help around 1,000 children each year who experience difficulties breathing at night. Disorders affecting children’s sleep can have a negative effect on their brain development, heart and blood vessel metabolism and the immune system.

The children’s sleep and ventilation unit is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment for sophisticated tests that can monitor oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream, movement of the chest and abdomen, heart rate, airflow, and electrical activity in the brain. Data gathered during testing is used in diagnosis and treatment planning.

Royal Brompton Hospital is a leading centre for research into and treatment of respiratory conditions in children. Experts at the hospital treat about 2400 children each year with conditions such as muscular dystrophy, severe asthma, cystic fibrosis and rare lung diseases. Many patients begin their treatment as small children and stay with the hospital throughout adulthood.

Commenting on the new unit, Dr Duncan Macrae, director of children’s services at the hospital, said: “We are delighted to have these impressive new facilities, which allow us to do very sophisticated testing and treatment, in a dedicated environment designed to put our patients at ease. We are also very pleased that such sophisticated technology will allow us additional scope for our research into sleep disorders.”

Dr Hui-leng Tan, consultant in paediatric respiratory and sleep medicine, is spearheading development of new research programmes into sleep-disordered breathing and paediatric sleep medicine, and fostering collaborations with sleep centres in other parts of the world.

Children on long-term ventilation, meaning they rely on ventilators to help them breathe when they return home from hospital, will benefit from improved care during stays on the unit, and parents of young patients can stay overnight on the dedicated unit with their children, helping to put them at ease so they sleep well.

Claire Goodbody, recently stayed with her seven-year-old daughter Gemma at the new unit, and said: “Gemma has congenital muscular dystrophy and has her sleep monitored at the Royal Brompton Hospital each year. We were so surprised and thrilled by the new unit. It has been very thoughtfully designed with privacy and everything we could need, so that we felt like we were in a home away from home. The whole environment is set up to make it as easy as possible for Gemma to get to sleep."

The new unit also provides expanded and improved facilities for Royal Brompton’s outreach training programmes. Earlier this year, the Children’s Long Term Ventilation (LTV) service launched a specialist training programme involving hands-on training, along with an e-learning package, for hospital and community staff across London and the South East, as well as parents of children who need to be ventilated. This means parents have access to practical support close to home and enables ventilated children to be safely cared for in their own homes. Previously such babies stayed in specialist intensive care units for many months, but it is now widely recognised that with the appropriate care at home, and in the community, they can thrive.

The unit was funded by Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Charity and features original artworks commissioned by rb&hArts and made possible through donations from the Octavia Appeal, which works through the Friends of Royal Brompton.

Greg Hands also took the opportunity to reiterate his support for Royal Brompton’s children’s cardiac surgery unit. He said: “I believe the decision that London should only have two centres is fundamentally wrong and I am delighted that Jeremy Hunt has decided to look at this again. I am hopeful that we will get a good result, not just for Royal Brompton, but for the future of children’s heart services in England.”