Patients and visitors
Our children's services, based at St Mary’s Hospital, are designed to put your child first. We’ve designed healthcare services which aim to minimise the disruption to your child’s life and promote their overall health and wellbeing. We believe parents should play an active role in their child’s care.
Children and young people: Our parents' guide
What to bring
If your child has a hospital appointment
Before your appointment, ask your child to help you pack for your visit to hospital. In this video, a young patient named Merna explains what she brings to her outpatient appointments – share this video with your child so you can prepare for your appointment together.
Here’s a list to help you pack:
- Your child’s ‘red book’
- A list of medications your child takes (this can be a photo of the packaging taken on your phone)
- A drink
- A healthy snack
- Something to read or do while you wait
If your child is staying overnight in hospital
In advance of your child’s inpatient appointment, we’d recommend you watch this video together. Here, Rahil shares what he brings for his inpatient stays.
Here’s a list to help you and your child pack:
- A dressing gown and slippers
- Comfortable clothing – you’ll need a few sets of clothes
- A tablet or laptop, if you have one
- School work
- Food and drink, if you or your child have special dietary restrictions
Tips for parents
Hospital visits and stays can be challenging and upsetting for children, so we suggest you follow these tips:
Stay with your child
We encourage parents to spend as much time as possible by their child’s side during hospital stays. If you do need to leave, explain to your child where you are going and how long you will be gone, and be sure to return to hospital on time.
Maintain your routine
Keep your normal routine intact as much as you can. Try to maintain the same wake-up schedule and bedtime routine, and make sure you bring your child’s favourite blanket or toy to hospital.
Take time for yourself
Try to take a few minutes each day to phone a friend or loved one or go for a short walk, for yourself. It is important that you give yourself the time and tools to cope with your child’s stay in hospital.
What to Expect
Meet the team
Whether you are coming to hospital for an outpatient appointment or an inpatient stay, you and your child may meet a variety of people. This video introduces some of the team members and their roles on the ward.
Your child’s care team will vary depending upon his or her unique needs, but all care teams include consultants, nurses, health care assistants, therapists, pharmacists and play specialists.
What will happen at my appointment?
If you and your child are coming to hospital for an outpatient appointment, a healthcare assistant may check your child’s height, weight and blood pressure before your child’s appointment. Your child will be called in to see a consultant. If any tests such as a blood test are necessary, these may be done on the same day, and will be performed by a nurse or a doctor.
Play specialists are a vital part of our hospital’s team, because play and recreation have an important therapeutic role in helping your child understand his or her health and care, which can aid your child’s recovery. They are available Monday through Friday from 08.00 to 18.00. They specialise in facilitating play activities that help children cope with the unique challenges of hospital visits. They work in the children’s department at St Mary’s Hospital, helping to explain tests and procedures to children and where possible, incorporating play into blood tests and other procedures to help alleviate each child’s anxieties.
Staying in hospital
If your child will be staying on one of our wards, similar examinations may be carried out, but you will also see any other specialists involved in your child’s care. This multidisciplinary team may include a surgeon and a therapist, as well as a dietician, depending upon your child’s needs. A pharmacist may also visit to discuss any medication prescribed to your child and explain its texture and taste.
When your child is admitted to hospital, we will develop a care plan that will include any tests, investigations or treatments your child will have, along with specific aims for your child’s time in hospital. This will give you an idea about the length of your child’s hospital stay. You will see the medical team twice a day to discuss your child’s progress and begin to plan for your child’s care following discharge from hospital.
If your child is listed for surgery, you will be invited to hospital for a pre-assessment appointment. At this appointment, you and your child will meet a doctor and a play specialist who will help your child prepare for surgery. On the day of your child’s surgery, the surgeon and anaesthetist will visit you and your child to discuss the procedure.
Depending upon your child’s needs and condition, your child may need to stay in hospital for more than a few days. Each day, your child will have an allocated nurse for each shift – this nurse will also look after other children on the ward. There are two nursing shifts per day, and each shift is preceded by a thorough handover.
Every morning, your child’s condition will be reviewed during consultant-led ward rounds. Each week, there is one lead consultant on duty. The lead consultant changes every Monday morning following a thorough handover.
We take safety very seriously on our wards – each ward is locked, and wards cannot be accessed without authorisation from staff at reception. When you arrive at the ward, please press the buzzer and a receptionist will let you in. Please practice common sense: do not hold the door to let other people in behind you.
A day on the ward
‘What matters to me’
When your child arrives in hospital for an inpatient stay, he or she will have the chance to create a ‘what matters to me’ poster. This gives your child a chance to either draw or write about what is most important to him or her, whether that’s getting a chance to read or spending time with family and friends. We will hang the completed poster beside your child’s bed so that our whole team can quickly get to know your child and his or her priorities, and we will do everything we can to accommodate your child.
Breakfast is self-service: patients and parents can choose from a selection of cereals and fresh fruit in our ward kitchens. Tea and coffee is available for adults.
Each morning, patients will be able to select their lunch and dinner from this menu. Lunch is usually served between 12.00 and 13.00, while dinner is served between 17.00 and 18.00. We operate protected mealtimes, so we prefer to keep visitors to a minimum during these hours so patients can eat in a calm environment.
We aim to minimise disruption to your child’s education, which is why we have school rooms on our ward. Our hospital school is operated by the Chelsea Community Hospital School and offers sessions from 10.00 to 12.00 and from 13.30 to 15.30, Monday through Friday. The school is equipped to meet the needs of children from reception to A-levels, and provides all subjects in the National Curriculum as well as an enriched arts programme. Bedside tuition is also available for patients who are too unwell to visit the school room. Our hospital teachers will coordinate with your child’s school to ensure appropriate assignments are given to your child. Our school room is also a registered exam centre, so your child can sit exams in hospital if necessary.
Play specialists are a vital part of our hospital’s team, because play and recreation have an important therapeutic role in helping to aid a child’s recovery and to understand their health. They specialise in facilitating play activities that help children cope with the unique challenges of hospital visits. They work in the children’s department at St Mary’s Hospital, helping to explain tests and procedures to children and where possible, incorporating play into procedures such as blood tests to help alleviate a child’s anxieties. Play specialists are also available in playrooms and can come to children’s bedsides to simply help them have fun and relax. Our play specialists are available Monday through Friday from 08.00 to 18.00.
Bedside televisions are available for children staying overnight. We turn the sound off at 21.00 each night so children can relax and sleep and we put the sound back on again at 08.00 the next morning. Your child can use headphones to watch television outside of these hours, but we encourage patients to take this time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
Two wifi services are available on the ward: there is a free wifi service that allows for basic browsing, email, and social media use, while there is also a premium wifi service available for a fee.
Our main playroom at St Mary’s is in the paediatrics inpatients reception area, and it has loads of games, toys, and fun things to do, as well as a TV you can watch. We also keep toys and books in our waiting areas to keep you and your child busy between appointments. If your child is not well enough to come to the playroom, play specialists can bring books and toys to your child’s bedside.
Hospital patient Merrie shows you around the ward in this video:
When it comes to parents and guardians, there are no visiting restrictions, but we can only allow one person to stay overnight with each child – this is due to health and safety regulations. Brothers and sisters are welcome to visit and use the play facilities as long as they are supervised. School-aged children should only visit outside of school hours. We only allow two visitors to see your child at one time to avoid overwhelming the ward, and we ask that all visitors leave the ward by 20.00 so that the patients can begin to wind down for sleep. All visitors should take advantage of the hand gel dispensers – please clean your hands when entering and leaving our wards or outpatient areas.
When not to visit
If anyone who wishes to visit your child on the ward has experienced vomiting or diarrhoea in the last three days, or has been exposed to an infectious condition such as chicken pox, we’d advise them to reschedule their visit. This precaution is to avoid the spread of infection among patients on the ward. Please speak to the nurse in charge on the ward if you are unsure what to do.
Discharge and resources
By the time your child is discharged from hospital, you will have already discussed plans for your child’s care with the medical team. When your child is discharged, we will give you a report detailing the care and treatment your child received in hospital, as well as any recommendations for follow-up care. We will send a copy of this report to your GP.
In most cases, follow-up and ongoing care will be delivered by your GP, who can refer you back to our team if required. Some children with long-term conditions will be assigned specialist nurses to support their care. If your child requires the support of a specialist nurse, you will receive contact details for that nurse and further instructions before you leave hospital.
If a problem requires urgent or emergency care, please call your GP’s out-of-hours service or 111, or take your child to one of our urgent care centres or to our children’s A&E. For more information about where to go when your child is unwell, please click here.
Friends and Family survey
We ask all patients to complete a survey to tell us about their experiences with us, as we truly value your feedback and we are always looking to improve our service.
Connecting Care for Children
Connecting Care for Children is an innovative programme drawing paediatric expertise and community support into primary care, where children’s and families’ needs are known and can be managed well. Click here to learn more: www.cc4c.imperial.nhs.uk
Additional links and resources
If you want to learn more about a condition, please have a look at the NHS Choices website, as it is a trusted resource for accurate health information.
In addition to the videos you see here on this page, we have produced videos for younger children and to demonstrate specific tests and examinations. You can see the complete selection of these videos by following these links:
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