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Specialised centre caring for children with sickle cell disease

Simi and Victoria Omolabi

Children and their families are receiving better care for sickle cell disease thanks to the efforts of hospitals in mid and south Essex.

The children’s department at Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust has developed a specialised sickle cell service for young people, while hiring additional staff and educating NHS colleagues about the disease.

Specialised consultants Dr Eva Tsouana and Dr Kilali Ominu-Evbota provide round-the-clock support and have helped to boost public understanding of the disease through interviews and blog articles. This comes amid calls for more blood donors to help those in need.

Nikki Tuffin, Haematology Clinical Nurse Specialist, said: “We have run bitesize training sessions for other staff at our hospitals, to teach them about the symptoms of sickle cell disease, how to identify a crisis, and what medications and treatments are available.”

A transcranial doppler scan, which measures the risk of stroke that is higher in this group of patients, is offered in the local area, meaning families no longer need to travel to London.

A dedicated paediatric sickle cell nurse specialist and an additional community nurse have also been appointed, while children on monthly transfusions now receive these in a day unit, rather than on the open ward as before.

Families have spoken positively about the care that their children have received. Simi Omolabi, 16, from Laindon, has been seen at the hospital’s Penguin Unit for two years.

His mum Victoria said: “The staff here are all very helpful, and Nikki is passionate about the care she gives to patients and families. She’s always looking for new ways of to make us comfortable. There is entertainment for the kids, such as an Xbox, and so they actually enjoy their time here. We used to have to go to Whitechapel when Simi needed treatment, but now we can stay in the local area.”

Dr Maimuna Mushabe, Clinical Director for Paediatrics at the Trust, said: “Our children’s department has developed a world-class sickle cell service, and since 2021 all patients across mid and south Essex are looked after by one team, which joins up their care.

“We treat over 150 patients, and they all have direct access to the paediatric assessment unit. More than three-quarters received analgesia within 30 minutes of arrival to the department, which is above the national average.”

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