Extra support for respiratory patients

Donations have enabled us to support an outreach team at St Thomas’ Lane Fox Respiratory Unit for patients with long-term respiratory problems.

Member of staff at the hospital, outside in the gardens
Emily Ballard, clinical specialist physiotherapist and transitional care coordinator, Lane Fox Outreach Team

The Lane Fox Respiratory Unit at St Thomas’ Hospital treats patients with chronic respiratory failure in a purpose built 14-bed ward, with vital support from the outreach team. Partly funded by donations, the Lane Fox Outreach Team provides home assessment and support for respiratory patients, including those who have been treated in the unit.

Helping vulnerable patients

The outreach team makes around 1,000 community visits each year and prioritises the frailest patients, who may find it difficult to travel into central London.

Emily Ballard has worked at Guy's and St Thomas’ for 13 years. She now works for the Lane Fox outreach team as clinical specialist physiotherapist and transitional care coordinator, supporting patients that have progressive neuromuscular disease (NMD) and breathing problems. A key aspect of Emily and her team’s role is carrying out home visits to assess patients in a home setting, which helps to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions.

Her role was completely funded by donations for the first three years before being granted NHS funding as a permanent post, reflecting the difference Emily has made to St Thomas’ patients.

‘With the current financial pressures on the NHS, it is very hard to get new posts funded,’ says Emily.
‘Without donations, I am not sure my post would have been able to start. The three-year trial gave us time to demonstrate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of the role in supporting patients.’

A vital link

Emily also supports patients from Evelina London Children’s Hospital, helping young people with neuromuscular and respiratory problems make the transition to adult services at St Thomas’.

She regularly attends the regional children's NMD clinics throughout the year with the Evelina London NMD team and provides respiratory screening and assessment of these young patients. As well as this, she helps any younger patients that already have home ventilation machines.

‘I also support other patients looked after by my outreach colleagues who need support with cough augmentation techniques, including our large tracheostomy ventilated group. We manage the largest group of tracheostomy ventilated patients in the UK,’ she says.

‘We undertake a great deal of carer training to ensure that all our patients’ carers are fully trained to meet their needs and these carers can safely use the respiratory equipment that we have provided. I will, on occasion, need to see a patient in their local hospital to set up equipment, such as the cough assist device, which are often not available in the patients’ local hospitals. And I will train the local team in the clinical and technical aspects of the equipment.’

Providing expertise

Most of the patients who receive support from the outreach team have rare and complex conditions and so the presence of the outreach team enables smaller local hospitals to benefit from the unit’s specialist knowledge.

‘It is a great comfort to the patient and families to be supported in their local hospital, when they are acutely unwell, by a person they know and trust,' Emily says.

The first outreach post was established in 2006 and, due to increased demand, the team has since expanded to three members.

‘The outreach team has really made a difference to the patients we support, especially those who cannot travel to the hospital anymore. The patients and their families have given great feedback and we often wonder how we existed without an outreach team before as we are so busy!’ says Emily.

On Friday 21 November 2014, the Lane Fox Outreach Team were presented with a Community Services Award at the Guy's and St Thomas' Trust Awards in recognition of the difference the team have made to patient care.

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