Birmingham Children’s Hospital is a beacon of medical excellence and loving care, giving thousands of youngsters a new life and fresh hope every year
As anyone with a young family knows, looking after an unwell child is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Fortunately for most, when illness strikes it amounts to little more than the odd virus or rash, sniffle or sneeze, and things are quickly back to normal much to the relief of worried and tired mums and dads. But imagine for a moment what it would be like if your family was just a bit bigger. How would you cope with more than 700 sick children wanting your help every day of the year? And what if the illnesses are much, much more serious? That’s the size of the task facing Birmingham Children’s Hospital. “We are a world class hospital and very proud of who we are and what we do,” said chief executive Sarah-Jane Marsh. “We aim to provide the best healthcare possible for children and young people, giving them the support and treatment they need in a hospital without walls.”
The hospital has been making the young better for more than 150 years, having opened in 1862 as the Birmingham and Midland Free Hospital for Sick Children in Steelhouse Lane. In 1998 it became the Diana Princess of Wales Children’s Hospital before taking its current name. Today it is recognised as not only the best of British but also a global leader in the research, development, treatment and care of the young. Unlike most other children’s hospitals, such as Great Ormond Street in London, BCH provides general services – it has an emergency centre – as well as nearly 40 specialities. These include liver transplant, bowel and cardiac surgery, burns and major trauma treatment and blood and bone marrow transplants. BCH is a national specialist centre for epilepsy surgery as well as a centre of excellence for complex heart conditions, cancer and liver and kidney disease. It is also one of the largest child and adolescent mental health service providers in the UK with a dedicated Eating Disorder Unit, while also leading the NHS with its Rare Diseases Research Centre. As well as treating more than a quarter-of-a-million youngsters each year, BCH also deals with more than 160,000 outpatient visits and more than 50,000 Emergency Department patients. State-of-the-art facilities include 14 theatres, a £3.7 million MRI scanner which supports pioneering research in brain tumours in children and a world-class facility which leads the way with pioneering international research into childhood cancer and liver diseases; infant brain tumours; infection and immunity; nutrition; and drug use in children. Key to BCH’s mission statement is its pledge to be a hospital ‘without walls’ making life as normal and relaxed as possible for both children and their parents. Inhouse, there’s a 61-room parent and family accommodation facility, while outside hospital-at-home teams set up programmes so as many children as possible can be treated and nursed in the familiar surroundings of their own homes.
“We never forget we are a children’s hospital and that children need the chance to play and learn. This can have a huge impact on their successful recovery,” said Sarah-Jane. BCH has its own fund-raising team which raises more than £5 million a year. Charitable donations fund improvements to the hospital’s environment providing playrooms, family areas and a sensory garden – and paid for an £800,000 refurbishment of the Emergency Department. In addition, nearly £250,000 alone was raised from participants if the Great Birmingham Run. A £4 million appeal to pay for a world class children’s cancer facility, which will help treat the 240 new cases a year of youngsters with the disease, is within touching distance of its goal. “The hospital’s reputation and success means we are always facing growing demands,” said Sarah-Jane, “and keeping up with that demand and having the right expert people and the right facilities in the right place is crucial.” There’s certainly no one better placed than Sarah-Jane to make those right calls. A true Brummie, she worked in hospitals at Walsall, Worcester, Redditch and Bromsgrove before taking up the helm in Birmingham. So, she knows exactly how local people think and what they want.
- 1951 – First UK successful hole-in-the-heart operation
- 1998 – First UK child triple-transplant of small bowel, liver and pancreas
- 2001 – First UK successful separation of conjoined twins
- 2015 – Recognised as international leader across 34 medical specialties including cardiac services, neurosurgery and trauma surgery