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Challenging times on the Young Person's Unit

Challenging times on the Young Person's Unit

The Young Person’s Unit (YPU) based on Ward 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. Frenchesca James, Senior Youth Support Co-ordinator, works directly with young patients to reduce the fear, anxiety and stress that repeated hospitalisation and invasive medical treatments can cause. Following on from our update in the last newsletter, we caught up with Frenchesca to hear how the last few months have been on the ward.


At the start of the pandemic many of the young patients were sent home if they were well enough or moved to their local hospital or to Great Ormond Street Hospital. For many patients, treatments and care was disrupted, with the temporary adaptation of the YPU into an adult Covid ward leading to significant anxiety amongst patients.


Once services returned to business as usual, the YPU was split due to the COVID pathways. Sadly, due to the ongoing nature of the pandemic, this is still the case, which means that there are young people split across two floors within the ward. This means that not all of the young people are able to access the ideal environment for their care and development. 


In the YPU where a key role of the ward is to welcome patients from paediatrics in an environment specifically equipped for adolescents, the benefits of integration to patients are proven to be huge, and Frenchesca looks forward to when the YPU will no longer be divided by COVID pathways.


Frenchesca has worked hard over the past year to return the YPU to normality as much as possible and last summer she reclaimed the recreation room which had been made into a temporary staff room during the height of the pandemic. This alone presented its own challenges, but with every step forward Frenchesca hopes to return the YPU to the safe and tailored space that the young patients need. Restrictions on infection control mean that re-establishing all the activities that used to take place is still not possible, but several of the clubs such as the popular breakfast club, a weekly get together that encourages healthy eating patterns and social interaction, are starting to be re-instated now. Discussions are also underway with Bright Futures UK who have collaborated with the YPU for four years now, providing weekly workshops for young people on the ward.


“Each year the YPU celebrates International Adolescent Health Week by doing activities on the adolescent ward. The theme is always lime green so there are lots of activities incorporating that colour to promote adolescent health. The activity in this photo on the right was biscuit decorating!”


In addition to coordinating activities for young patients, the Activity Co-ordinators on the ward keep Care Boxes for patients who come in without provisions for their visit. These boxes include clothing, toiletries and other items that help to make them feel comfortable during their stay. There is an ongoing need for donations to fund these and other crafts and activities materials, all of which help to offer young patients a more comfortable and less stressful stay.


Frenchesca is feeling positive about a future that is gradually returning to normal, and a new Youth Support Co-ordinator has joined the team recently too. Frenchesca and her colleagues on the ward continue to work hard to make T12 South a place where young people feel safe and understood.