When disaster strikes, plans and preparations become a real-life response. No room for error, no time to waste.
On March 22, those plans were brought sharply into focus for the major trauma team at St Mary’s Hospital. Within moments of a shocking terror attack at nearby Westminster Bridge, staff were primed for a major incident and ready to receive the initial influx of casualties.
Shehan Hettiaratchy, Major Trauma Director and Lead Surgeon, was at the heart of the hospital’s response. In the midst of the confusion watched by millions on rolling news, Shehan’s team executed their plans with pinpoint precision.
“Everyone performed really well, it was all very smooth, very slick,” Shehan recalled. “They performed how I’d expect them to, given the professionalism that exists within our centre.
“We’d been expecting a terrorist attack in the UK for six months and assumed London had to be one of the most likely targets. It arrived and then you switch to a well-rehearsed plan – and that worked very well.”
The hospital’s response was captured by camera crews and later broadcast in the ground-breaking first episode of BBC Two’s acclaimed documentary series, Hospital, in June.
It showed emergency staff scrambling to postpone non-essential treatments and free up beds for patients arriving from the scene, while specialists moved the most serious casualties quickly through the system and into surgery.
“We have a major incident plan and we’d actually been rehearsing for having a far greater number of casualties than this,” Shehan added. “We prepare by practicing scenarios, practicing the pathways and practicing how we respond.”
Among the victims cared for at St Mary’s that day were Stephen and Cara Lockwood. The couple had been visiting London to celebrate Stephen’s 40th birthday when they were both struck by the attacker’s car.
Cara escaped with bruises and a twisted ankle but Stephen suffered injuries to his face, chest and leg, requiring a four-hour operation.
“The attack happened and they would have been affected by it like anybody would,” said Stephen, reflecting on his care three months after the attack. “But then they had a job to do on top of that. It really is incredible.”
In recent years, Imperial Health Charity has awarded millions of pounds in grants to help emergency teams handle major crises at St Mary’s Hospital.
Last year the charity paid for a £3.5 million upgrade of the emergency department, creating extra resuscitation bays and new triage rooms to boost capacity, with a raft of other improvements also in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, the Major Trauma Appeal raised £1 million to support the hospital’s major trauma centre, which played such an important role in the terror response.
On the wards themselves, charity funding has also paid for a Belmont Rapid Infuser – vital equipment that allows staff to quickly transfuse blood and fluids into patients at high volumes.
“It’s a really important bit of equipment,” explained Shehan. “We get a lot of people in our centre who have had penetrative trauma, particularly from knife cuts, which is a real problem in this part of London. We have a large number of people who need to have rapid blood volume replacement.
“We saw that with some of our casualties from the Westminster Bridge incident. The infuser really makes a big difference to what we can deliver quickly. It’s state of the art and that’s where we want to be.”
Due to the high number of stabbings treated at the hospital, the charity also teamed up with the Redthread organisation to address youth violence in London.
The Redthread programme helps young people involved in violence turn their lives around by connecting with youth workers while they are recovering in hospital.
Shehan added: “We often get people who have been stabbed once come back in again and often when they come back, they are dead. If we can break that cycle and break into their mindset and change their behaviour, then that’s a good thing. Prevention is always better than any kind of cure.
“We’re massively appreciative for everything the charity has done for us. Everything the charity provided is being used every day to good clinical effect. It’s made a big impact.”
Imperial Health Charity’s biggest ever sponsored walk raised more than £9,000 to fund exciting improvement projects for dozens of wards and departments across the Trust.
More than 130 people took part in Walk for Wards, completing the two or five mile challenge around Paddington and Regent’s Park.
Proud hospital staff joined grateful patients and members of the local community for the event on Sunday 9 July, raising vital cash to support the ward that means the most to them.
A total of 637 miles were covered during the walk – the same distance as trekking from Big Ben to John O’Groats.
Among the walkers were nurses from the Victor Bonney gynaecology ward at Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea, the chemotherapy day unit at Hammersmith and the adult intensive care unit at St Mary’s.
One nurse, Savi Ramkissoon from the ICU team, showed remarkable dedication to the cause by taking part in the walk only four hours after finishing a long night-shift on the ward.
Laura Kell, Head of Fundraising at Imperial Health Charity, said: “We have been blown away by the fantastic efforts of all our fundraisers. Every step they took at Walk for Wards and every penny they raised will help us help our hospitals do more.
“We are so grateful to everyone who took part or volunteered to help out on the day.”
The walk inspired dozens of patients whose lives have been transformed by the extraordinary care of the Trust’s top doctors and nurses to give back to the NHS by fundraising for the charity.
Tim O’Sullivan zipped round the course in no time at all, running the entirety of the route to support the cancer day care team at Hammersmith Hospital who have looked after his father during a long fight against Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
“The hospital have been amazing in their care towards my Dad,” said Tim. “Without the donations given to the charity at previous events, the journey we have been on would have been 10 times harder with even more challenges to face.”
Inspired by stories from Walk for Wards? You can find out more about fundraising for Imperial Health Charity at www.imperialcharity.org.uk/fundraising-events
If you’d like to know more about volunteering opportunities with the charity, visit www.imperialcharity.org.uk/volunteer
A medical student who spent Christmas in a coma after being hit by a car was reunited with the medics who saved his life at Walk for Wards.
Matt Gunnee met the team from the adult intensive care unit at St Mary’s Hospital after completing the five-mile sponsored walk.
The 22-year-old, who studies at Imperial College London, underwent emergency brain surgery at St Mary’s last November after he and two of his friends were knocked down as they crossed the road.
Surgeons removed a large bleed from the side of his brain and then put Matt into a coma. He wasn’t ‘woken up’ until early January.
Matt only recently completed his neurorehabilitation at Charing Cross Hospital but was fit enough to take part in the walk, raising £332 for the ICU.
At the finish line he was reunited for the first time with some of the staff who cared for him following his operation.
Matt said: “When you’re in a coma, the thing that is most important to you is that your loved ones are looked after. I cannot speak highly enough of the ICU team who made sure my family were OK.”
Matt has been volunteering with Imperial Health Charity as part of his recovery and hopes to restart the fourth year of his studies in September 2018.
He said he was inspired to take part in Walk for Wards to make sure others get the same second chance at life.
“My story ended really well and I’m slowly getting back to normal, but it could have been much worse,” he added. “I don’t want other people’s stories to have a sad ending.”
It’s been quite a busy year for Imperial Health Charity. More than £8 million awarded to fund healthcare projects at the Trust, Arts Council accreditation for our growing hospital art collection and more people than ever before supporting our work through fundraising.
Now you can find out how our work across grants, arts, volunteering and fundraising is making a real difference in our hospitals.
Our new Impact Report shines the spotlight on our greatest achievements over the last 12 months, demonstrating the many ways we are improving the hospital experience for patients and staff.
The report features the major redevelopment projects we’ve funded, from the multi-million-pound upgrade to the emergency department at St Mary’s to the full refurbishment of the Riverside operating theatres at Charing Cross.
But it also demonstrates how the charity is changing individual lives by exploring some of the unique and uplifting stories that have emerged from our work.
Allergy sufferer Seema is one of those patients who has benefited from the charity’s support over the last year. Seema, 18, was diagnosed with severe eczema and milk allergy at an early age and receives regular care at St Mary’s Hospital.
Thanks to funding from the charity, Seema has been able to help educate parents, teachers and healthcare professionals about allergic disease through the Terrific Teens project.
Our £50,000 grant has given young people with severe allergies the chance to share their experiences in short, educational films.
To read our new Impact Report, visit www.imperialcharity.org.uk/annual-review-reports
For parents whose children are sick at birth, watching their newborn being cared for by unfamiliar hospital staff can be an isolating experience.
In those first few days, weeks and months, the bond between parent and child is at its strongest. But when babies are born prematurely, traditional care models tend to take control away from the family.
Now parents are being given the chance to play a bigger role in caring for their child, with the aid of a new mobile app.
Funded by Imperial Health Charity, the app is part of a pioneering new approach designed to teach parents how to wash, feed and observe their child as well as administer medical care under nurses’ supervision.
The aim is to reduce anxiety for both parent and child and strengthen the familial bonding process beyond the hospital walls.
“We had feedback in the traditional care model that parents don’t feel like parents,” said Aniko Deierl, consultant neonatologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
“They feel like visitors or spectators in the neonatal unit and it’s only one or two weeks before discharge that the neonatal team says to the parents, ‘now you need to get involved because you’re going home’. That can be very scary for them.”
The Integrated Family Delivered Care app, currently available for the iPhone and iPad, provides accurate medical information that parents can rely on for support. It also allows parents to record their baby’s progress and share it with others.
As part of the process, parents undergo supervised training and competency assessments to ensure they are confident in caring for their child.
Although the app is the first of its kind, similar patient-delivered approaches have been successful around the world.
Jay Banerjee, a fellow neonatal consultant at the Trust, became interested in the potential of family integrated care after learning from a pilot carried out at Toronto’s Mt Sinai Hospital.
“It’s a really low-cost and high-output programme where the patient as well as the baby can really benefit,” he said.
Imperial Health Charity awarded a grant of £180,000 to cover the cost of developing and maintaining the app. The funding also paid for two project coordinator roles and the recruitment of a psychology assistant.
Currently up and running for patients at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital, the project will soon be brought to St Mary’s and is already being rolled out to other parts of the UK.
Ian Lush, chief executive at Imperial Health Charity, said: “We are delighted to be supporting this project, which helps parents of premature babies feel less isolated and confused at what is a very stressful time.
“The app helps them to communicate with family and friends as their baby progresses, while the involvement in the daily care of their baby is proven to bring real benefits to the baby and parents alike.”
The app is currently available for iPhone and iPad. An Android version is expected to be released later this year.