Meet GOSH’s Great British Menu star judge, Barbara

Barbara Childs, Matron of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), was invited to be a judge on this year’s series of Great British Menu, which is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the NHS. We spoke to Barbara to find out more about her experience as a star judge and working in the NHS in this special anniversary year.

Being part of Great British Menu

How did you become a judge on Great British Menu?

It was all a complete surprise, I had no idea that I was going to be nominated to be one of the judges!

I noticed one day when I came into work that I’d received an email from the Press Office informing me that I’d been put forward. My assumption was that the Chief Nurse gave a few names and from that they selected people who had worked in the hospital for quite a while.

After being chosen, each of the judges were given a day that they were going to be filmed.

How was your experience of judging on Great British Menu?

It wasn’t until the day that the nerves started to kick in, before then I actually felt quite relaxed.

I was told that I was going to be filming for the whole day, which I very enthusiastically said ‘okay!’ to. I arrived at the studio around 8.30am, at which point I thought to myself ‘I can’t do this now’.

I think I got a bit camera shy at first because I can tell you nurses don’t like to be on camera! But thankfully the team at the BBC were incredible. They calmed me down a lot and made me feel so relaxed and at ease. They filmed me a few times on my own so that I could get used to having the camera there which really helped the nerves! The other judges were lovely too.

Once I was in my judge's chair, it felt like I was just having a conversation, I didn’t even notice that the cameras were there.

What did the judging process entail?

The chefs presented us with a four-course meal, and once we’d tried each of the four dishes from the two chefs, we had to discuss our preferences and score on who we thought should go through.

I was really worried that I wasn’t going to like the dishes because I’m a very fussy eater. My family were even shocked that I was going on the show.

I ended up having to tell the BBC how fussy I was and that I didn’t like a lot of things on the menu… I did end up trying everything though!

How did it feel once you had completed the whole day of filming?

I felt so pleased with myself!

To do a show like Great British Menu and see how a production works was an amazing experience! I love adventurous cooking, so it was great to see how they put the show together!

It was a lovely day and the BBC looked after me so well. I was really glad I went by the end of the day.

Celebrating the NHS at 70

With the NHS turning 70, how did you celebrate the big moment?

We brought in a birthday cake with ‘happy birthday’ written on it and we celebrated by having a tea party! We decorated the staff area with some banners and ate some yummy food!

Even though not all the staff were able to leave the unit at one time, we did manage to get the unit covered so everyone could celebrate! We got one of the children on the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit to cut our birthday cake and we all sang happy birthday.

It was really nice and all the staff really enjoyed it. It cheers everyone up having a little party.

The NHS and GOSH have seen a lot of change in the past 70 years! How have you seen the hospital change since you began working here?

I’ve been at GOSH now for nearly 25 years, and a massive thing that I’m always noticing is that we’re always putting up new buildings!

I started at GOSH when the Variety Club Building (VCB) opened with Princess Diana. I was here as a post-registration student doing my training in children’s nursing as I was previously an adults nurse. Since I first started, I’ve seen all the buildings open with new facilities for the children.

What are some of the advancements in your field?

I’ve watched technology, medical advancements and pioneering surgery develop in many areas at GOSH – mainly cardiac in my case.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) – a machine that uses an artificial lung outside the body to oxygenate the blood and pump it into and around the body – was just starting when I first came to GOSH. Today we’re one of the national centres in the UK for children’s and neonates’ ECMO.

I’ve also seen the tracheal (windpipe) service advance with Professor Martin Elliott. Previously, if we didn’t perform this surgery, our patients wouldn’t have survived. I’m seeing children today needing their vital airway managed, which we’re now able to do because of our pioneering surgery.

Nursing has also changed drastically. We were more task orientated when I started, given one task to do during the day, such as dressings. We didn’t even need a degree when I started!

But now, most nurses are doing masters and advanced nurse practice. Some of the nurses are working alongside the consultants to manage a group of patients. We look at the child in a holistic way at GOSH, so one nurse will manage the care of the child and their family rather than several different individuals.

Nursing has definitely changed but I’ve been able to change with the times.

What do you think are some of the changes taking place in the next few years?

Technology will continue to develop further. In addition, with more advanced nurse practitioners coming to the hospital, the role of nursing is going to change, allowing us to work more closely with the medical team.

The recruitment of nurses is another area that I feel will change in the upcoming years especially with the Premiere Inn Clinical Building opening. I think the facility is amazing and it will mean we will be able to have more beds for the seriously ill children who come to us from all over the UK.

GOSH is always advocating that we fulfil our potential, so we’ll look to get the best out of our staff and give our patients and families the best care.