Southampton Children’s Hospital has expanded its pioneering outpatient rehabilitation service for young brain and spinal tumour patients.
The team now includes a clinical psychologist and assistant psychologist who will work alongside physiotherapist Kate Gatehouse and will focus on providing care for children once they have been discharged from hospital following treatment.
Dr Taryn Dennison, who qualified as a clinical psychologist in 2013 and previously worked as an assistant neuropsychologist with the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS), and Holly Croucher, who specialises in clinical and developmental neuropsychology, joined the service in May.
The posts have been funded by children’s charity robbiesrally – which is a fund within Southampton Children’s Hospital Charity – and was set up in memory of 10-year-old patient Robbie Keville at his request by his father Mark and siblings Harry and Lara.
Although the NHS provides rehabilitation for the most seriously ill children who qualify for an inpatient stay after neurosurgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, it remains limited once they return home.
The aim of robbiesrally is to fund a complete specialised outpatient rehabilitation service – known as Robbie’s Rehab – for children with brain and spinal cord tumours in partnership with Southampton Children’s Hospital’s rehabilitation team.
The children’s neurosurgery unit in Southampton sees around 300 patients a year with a range of brain conditions and is among the country’s top performers, with a survival rate of 98.8% against a national average of 93.3%.
“Around 500 children are diagnosed with brain and spinal tumours every year in the UK – these account for a quarter of all childhood cancer cases,” said Shona Mackie, paediatric neurology nurse specialist.
“While treatment has come a long way in terms of saving lives, this group of patients are often left with damage to the central nervous system which requires ongoing rehabilitation.”
She added: “The rehabilitation service has already made a huge difference to our patients, allowing them to go home while continuing their recovery post-surgery and treatment through this innovative development.”
Mark, who began his fundraising activities for the hospital two years before setting up robbiesrally, said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Taryn and Holly to the Robbie’s Rehab team thanks to the fundraising efforts of robbiesrally and our fantastic supporters.
“Through personal experience I know how beneficial follow-on rehabilitation is to this group of young patients, who are often left with both physical and psychological damage as a result of their conditions and the gruelling and invasive treatment that follows.”
Separately, the charity has worked in partnership with The Vintners’ Foundation to fund the installation of a cardio wall, which enables patients to work on their strength, balance and coordination – all of which are commonly associated with brain or spinal cord tumour damage.
Mark added: “Developing Robbie’s Rehab and funding innovative equipment such as the fantastic cardio wall are great examples of what we can achieve with the help of our amazing supporters and I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved along the way so far.”