Southampton Children’s Hospital has become the first in the country to offer young patients the opportunity to obtain the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) as they transition to adult services.

The award, which was created by Prince Philip in 1956, recognises teenagers and young adults who develop life skills through a series of activities and challenges.

Participants can achieve bronze, silver and gold levels through volunteering, improvements in physical fitness, practical and social skills, expedition and residential placements.

The partnership is the brainchild of Dr Arvind Nagra, a consultant paediatric nephrologist at Southampton Children’s Hospital, who saw the opportunity for the DofE scheme to complement Southampton’s pioneering Ready Steady Go (RSG) programme.

Developed in 2013, RSG supports young patients as they transition from children’s to adult services by helping them gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to manage their healthcare.

“There is much evidence that long-term conditions worsen for a significant number of young people as they move from children’s to adult services,” said Dr Nagra, who is patient experience lead for the British Association of Paediatric Nephrologists.

“Patients report lower self-esteem, increased sense of social isolation and greater anxiety, as well as poorer rates of employment, compared with their well peers.

“So, for our young people, the DofE is particularly important as it will help them develop skills such as self-confidence and self-reliance that are critical as they take on more responsibility for their own healthcare and wider sense of wellbeing.

“This is in addition to achieving a nationally-recognised award that will help improve employability.”

Dr Nagra said arrangements have now been made to recognise an element of RSG – a knowledge and skills programme to help empower patients – as part the DofE award requirement.

“There is a real synergy between the two schemes, with the DofE providing wonderful opportunities such as the chance to take part in an expedition and undertake volunteering,” she said.

“We have already started enrolling patients – young people who would never have thought of doing it without the endorsement, encouragement and support provided by their healthcare teams.”

She added: “We are already seeing some great work, with one patient on dialysis with diet restrictions due to kidney failure now sourcing suitable recipes with the renal (kidney) dietitian to make them available to patients nationally.”

Patient participation in the DofE programme will be funded by Southampton Children’s Hospital Charity and Creating Learning Experiences aVailable At Hospital (CLEVAH), a charity set up by Debbie Cruxton in memory of her late daughter Maddy.

To mark the start of the collaboration with University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Nagra will be presented with a DofE licence at a ceremony at St James’s Palace tomorrow (Tuesday). She will be joined by Mrs Cruxton, Kath Evans, patient experience lead for children and young people at NHS England, and Paula Head, chief executive of UHS.