The Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Southampton Children’s Hospital has 16 beds and treats around 1,000 critically ill and injured children every year. As a specialist hospital and regional trauma centre for the whole of central Southern England, the exceptional PICU staff provide the highest level of intensive care for children from across nine counties.
With Sarah and Jim’s personal experience of their baby daughter Ella-Jayne being treated for a heart defect in the PICU at Southampton Children’s Hospital, they know all too well how important these new cubicles are for children, their families and the staff caring for them, which is why we have chosen to raise funds specifically for this and to ensure they become a reality as soon as possible.
The Murray Parish Trust’s ambition is to raise £200,000 to fund one isolation cubicle and bridge the funding gap so that the whole project can be realised. Each cubicle is likely to be used by c.65 children and families every year.
The PICU regularly admits children with impaired immune systems who are extremely vulnerable to infection. The existing two side rooms are insufficient and do not meet the minimum number required for a PICU of this size and type. This challenge is managed as well as possible through enhanced infection control practices. The PICU team place plastic screens around bed spaces and use filter units to improve air quality, but these practices do not provide adequate protection and take up precious space.
The team also move some patients with infections to other areas of the hospital that have isolation facilities, which requires two staff to go with the child, thus significantly impacting staffing. The worst case scenario is that there is a risk of temporary closure of PICU due to cross-infections. As a specialist children’s hospital and regional PICU, it is imperative that the service is maintained and at full capacity.
The lack of sufficient isolation rooms also has a devastating impact on parents, making an unimaginable experience even worse. Having your child critically ill in intensive care is terrifying, stressful and exhausting. PICU is a high pressure, busy and noisy environment. The team strive to provide the very best care for the child and parents and they are deeply saddened when they regularly need to provide end of life care on the open ward, with only a curtain around the bed. This is deeply distressing for the family and families in the surrounding beds who are acutely aware of what is happening. There is no quiet time alone with their child. No space to find a moment to breathe or think, to talk quietly with the staff who are working hard to save your child’s life. In heartbreaking moments, there is no dignity or privacy.
The Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Southampton is an extraordinary place. Jim and I spent a long time there with Ella-Jayne, and it can be very overwhelming and frightening for both children and parents. It’s completely open plan and desperate, terrifying things can happen there every day that everyone is witness to.PICU is a unique critical care environment, as each patient has an accompanying parent who are not only being exposed to a highly stressful and emotional time, but also at risk of contracting and transmitting infections to both their child and other patients and families on the ward.In times of extreme trauma, be it breaking point for parents, emergency care for children or even an end of life scenario, there needs to be a place of quiet and privacy. These new isolation rooms will reduce the risk of infection for both parents and children and give them the privacy they deserve during the most traumatic time of their lives.
– Sarah & Jim x
As part of a £1m project, University Hospital Southampton plans to create five new isolation cubicles within the PICU, maintaining the 16 existing bed spaces. These cubicles will help provide the very best possible experience for patients and their families in what is often a highly traumatic and stressful time. Staff will be more able to have private and quiet conversations with families, improving confidentiality and crucial psychological support all the while being more sensitive to the needs of individual patients and families during their journey in intensive care, which for some can last many months.
The cubicles will have a child-friendly, comforting design and will have full length glass partitions and sliding doors with built in privacy blinds to ensure as much natural light is maintained for the space and the rest of the unit.
Other features will include:
- LED lit picture panels on the ceiling which are proven to reduce stress and anxiety for conscious patients
- Colourful images printed onto healthcare standard wall panels
- Sensory equipment and upgraded lighting to enhance care for children with additional needs and disabilities, mental health difficulties or those who are experiencing high levels of distress and anxiety
- Hospital standard, reclining comfortable chairs for parents, especially supportive for breastfeeding mums