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BBC Children in Need are making a difference

BBC Children in Need are making a difference

The Young Person’s Unit (YPU) based on T12 South at University College Hospital, cares for patients aged 13-19 with mental health conditions and chronic/acute illnesses other than cancer. Many of these illnesses and conditions are lifelong and some of them are life threatening. Activity Co-ordinators work directly with patients to reduce the fear, anxiety and stress that repeated hospitalisation and invasive medical treatments can cause, speeding up recovery times and reducing the length of time that patients spend in hospital. The Activity Co-ordinators make a real and lasting difference to both the short and long-term care of young patients. 

UCL Hospitals Charitable Foundation are thrilled to have been awarded a 3 year grant by BBC Children in Need (BBC CIN) to fund an Activity Co-ordinator on the Young Person’s Unit. Following her recruitment to the position, we were delighted to catch up with the new BBC CIN Activity Co-ordinator, Fiona Eva.


Q: We’d love to hear more about your work on the ward, please could you tell us a bit about it? 

A: We work with vulnerable patients from a diverse range of backgrounds. Often they are suffering from mental health issues as well as being chronically ill and require both physical and psychological support. One of the main focuses for us is to distract them from the hospital environment. A lot of our time is focused on creative activities that engage our patients. Twice a month Citybeat Radio visit us on the ward and we involve young people in making a radio show. It’s a great opportunity to give patients a voice, to build their confidence and be proud that they have created something that the whole hospital can listen to. 


Q: Can you give us some examples of the creative activities that you organise? 

A: Every Tuesday we run a Breakfast Club for patients, this is a great opportunity for us to build a rapport with them in a situation which involves yummy food. A really popular activity are our art therapy sessions that take place in our recreation room every other Tuesday after breakfast club. This summer we have been working on a tropical rainforest project. It has included painting, printing, origami and cutting images from magazines, allowing patients to express themselves in creative ways. 


Q: It must be difficult to tailor activities to suit individual patients each with different needs? 

A: We focus on activities that can be inclusive of all patients as much as possible, for example every Monday morning throughout the summer we had Yoga workshops that were run by a Yoga instructor and she was able to adapt each move to suit the patients’ capabilities. Young people attend school on the ward every morning from 10am-12pm. Every Wednesday and Friday morning myself and Octavia, the Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist, run mindfulness sessions before school for the young people. Mindfulness has been proven to have many health benefits and for patients who have long-term chronic illnesses it can help to relieve some pain and stress. We thought it would be a great idea to run these sessions before school so that the young people will feel more relaxed on the ward and also have a clearer mind whilst at school. 


Q: We’ve seen some amazing photos of young patients holding exotic animals, can you tell us a bit more about that? 

A: A Safari entertainer came to the ward and ran an educational workshop with our patients. He brought in animals such as a small crocodile, baby meercats, an owl, a snake and a lizard. The young people got to hold the animals whilst they were on the ward. We received great feedback, with one patient saying, “It helped with my confidence as I was scared at the start but wanted to hold them in the end!” and another commenting that, “It made me forget about why I was in hospital.” Ward Sister Gill Baughhan said that it was, “an amazing experience for both patients and staff (and parents). It was a great distraction from daily life on the ward, a once in a lifetime experience.” 


Q: What are you looking forward to over the coming months? 

A: I am super excited about the months ahead, we have some great workshops planned and ideas for how to support young people whilst they are in our care and equipping them with tools they can use when they leave us too. We will be holding a Life Skills workshop on Thursday afternoons which will be run by a facilitator from Regents Place, a local community fund. There’s a lot of creative opportunities too. We’re looking forward to establishing ‘Everyone can groove,’ a professionally run dance workshop, on the ward. It will be a great way to promote health and well-being and will involve patients and staff. We are also hoping to work with a local theatre group on the ward and are excited about the opportunity we’ll have to visit them at their studio too. The focus will be on developing the ability to express thoughts and feelings around certain issues in a creative environment. 


Q: What is it that you love most about your job? 

A: Every day I learn more and more about young people and the types of conditions they are having to deal with. The young people are an inspiration. I feel like I am a valued member of the team and we all work together to provide a holistic service for these young people who need us most. I’d like to say thank you to BBC Children in Need for giving me this fantastic opportunity to work with a great team providing support to vulnerable young people who inspire me daily. 


This all sounds really exciting, thank you so much for taking the time to update us.