Children and young people admitted to Torbay Hospital are set to benefit from new equipment and aids to support emotional wellbeing.
Dr James Dearden, Paediatric Consultant and Torbay Paediatric Mental Health Lead, said: “We know that being in hospital can be tough for children and young people, especially if they have neurodiversity or experience emotional distress. By providing patients with access to items such as weighted blankets, a ‘magic carpet’ interactive floor projector, YoTo players and other audio visual, tactile and sensory equipment we can reduce their stress, improve their wellbeing and give them a better experience of being in hospital.”
But it’s not just about improving the hospital experience for James and his colleagues. It’s about seizing the opportunity to work together to improve the lives of local children and young people.
Emma Perryman, Paediatric Sister, said: “Children and young people in Torbay and South Devon face big challenges. Torbay itself is the most highly deprived community in the south west. Many of our children start their lives at a disadvantage. We have high numbers of looked after children and children with protection arrangements in place. The more we can do now, to improve their health and wellbeing, the bigger difference it will have for their future. The World Health Organisation calls this the triple dividend – improving health now, building better health for adulthood and contributing to the health of future generations.
Emma has recently completed the child and young person with mental health needs degree course at the University of Plymouth and added: “I feel passionately that the mental health needs of our children and young people are equally important as their physical health needs. We are working to improve the training we offer our staff to reflect this – it is a good start but we know we have much more to do.”
James continued: “For far too long children and young people’s mental health has been seen as an issue which is the responsibility of child and adolescent mental health services alone, but we all have a part to play in supporting the mental and emotional wellbeing of our children. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the challenges facing our children and has shown us that there is much we need to do. By working together and supporting people to make small adjustments now, we can have a big impact on their future. This is just the start of what we hope to do here in Torbay and South Devon.”
James and Emma have established a paediatric mental health network (launched in February 2022) to share good practice, explore ideas for improvements and provide peer support and training. They’ve also set up good local networks with colleagues from children’s social care, child and adolescent mental health services and local schools to work together to raise awareness of issues affecting children and young people, provide education and support and to work towards a culture change that ensures parity of esteem for physical and mental health.
James became Torbay and South Devon’s paediatric mental health lead last summer and on 30 March 2022 took part in a webinar with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, talking about the role that paediatricians can play in supporting children and young people’s mental health and the opportunities that the mental health lead roles offer for paediatrics.
The Child Health team at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust has also been successful in securing a place in October 2022 on the roll out of the national Health Education England for We Can Talk training programme, a crisis mental health training package for staff in acute hospitals. The training will add to their plan around improving our mental health support to children and young people who are admitted to hospital.
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