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Revolutionary machine is making it easier for patients to swallow

Fee Stack

An innovative machine costing over £25,000 is helping stroke and critical care patients by diagnosing their swallowing problems quicker than ever at Southend Hospital.

Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) is a specialised assessment using a small camera which travels through the nose to the throat to get a closer look at a patient’s swallowing problem and help find out whether patients can be safely moved from a nil-by-mouth status to eating and drinking.

Patients who may benefit from FEES assessment generally have dysphagia, which interferes with the safe passage of food or liquids from the mouth to the stomach. The quicker diagnosis means that patients can start eating and drinking sooner and are not reliant on tube feeding.

The machine is used by speech and language therapists to discover the cause of a patient’s swallowing problem and help develop a personalised treatment plan. The goal is to improve patients’ overall health with an emphasis on safety, comfort and better nutrition.

The machine was funded by a generous donation from Southend Hospital Charitable Foundation. Mid and South Essex Charity has also supported teams at Basildon with the same machines.

Hayley Forrest, clinical lead and speech and language therapist from Southend Hospital said: “This machine will make a huge difference to patients, allowing us to assess those who have had a stroke or are on critical care, as well as other patients who are unwell and not fit enough to have a formal swallow x-ray.”

Before the use of FEES, videofluoroscopy - a moving x-ray examination of swallowing - was the only standard option available to look at a patient’s swallow function.  This x-ray can only be done by consultant radiologists. FEES clinics can be run by speech and language therapists and the machine can be brought to the patient’s bedside.

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