Peter Steer, Chief Executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital, has shared his hopes for the coming year with readers of The Independent.
I am hopeful and excited by the coming of the new year. At GOSH we are privileged to work in a place with an extraordinary tradition of caring for and helping some of the nation’s most vulnerable children and supporting their families.
The special place GOSH occupies in the country’s consciousness has been demonstrated by the reaction to the Independent newspaper’s appeal. We are so grateful for your support and over the next year, we will work hard to ensure that every penny you have donated is put to the best possible use, improving the lives of our patients and their families.
Part of the focus of this appeal has been on the Louis Dundas Centre for Children’s Palliative Care. As a clinician the most difficult conversations I had were with parents where I told them in the simplest of terms that their child was going to die. These words were exchanged in a privileged and sacred space that as a physician I came to as a respectful visitor, but a space in which parents must live. In the face of their humbling strength and courage, I hoped that respect and compassion had made a small difference to a situation where no parent should find themselves.
My hope for 2016 is that our clinical teams occupy less and less of this space with our families. For many of our children and their families, who have exhausted treatment options in other hospitals, research breakthroughs are their only hope. This year I would like us to enrol many more of our patients onto research studies and for a greater number of pioneering treatments to be introduced. Treatments like the gene therapy you may have read about in the Independent newspaper. This work saw one-year-old Layla Richards receive ground-breaking gene therapy to treat aggressive ‘incurable’ leukaemia. She is now home and cancer free. I would like these breakthroughs to be shared with, and built on, by colleagues around the world so we can help many more children.
Many children who come to GOSH have conditions that are so rare that they are difficult to diagnose and consequently treat. We are already analysing the DNA of these patients through the national 100,000 genome project. This year I hope that by comparing this detailed information, our scientists and doctors will be able to pinpoint the genetic features that disorders have in common and that children will get a diagnosis for their rare condition in a much shorter space of time than we ever thought possible.
At GOSH in the coming year we must support all hospitals around the country that need to send their patients to us for specialist care. This means being able to receive them and partnering with others to ensure the right package of care when they return back to their local hospital or home. One example where we are making room for more patients is in our new specialist heart failure unit, which the Give to GOSH appeal is supporting. This much-needed facility is for patients that need specialist cardiac care, including those waiting for precious heart transplants. This year we will be preparing for its opening in 2017.
Finally I would like to ensure that all our staff feel appreciated for all their hard work, dedication and innovation. Every day they wake up, come to work and take on the most difficult of tasks, in some cases being the only face that a very ill child will see that day, and the main source of comfort as well as care for those families. Great Ormond Street Hospital would not be what it is without the dedication and unshaking commitment of its doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants and support staff. It also would not be what it is without the tremendous support from people like all of you – thank you again.
Notes to Editors
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust is the country’s leading centre for treating sick children, with the widest range of specialists under one roof.
With the UCL Institute of Child Health, we are the largest centre for paediatric research outside the US and play a key role in training children’s health specialists for the future.
Our charity needs to raise £50 million every year to help rebuild and refurbish Great Ormond Street Hospital, buy vital equipment and fund pioneering research. With your help we provide world class care to our very ill children and their families.