Care in the North West
Tom’s Trust opened its third service at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool in July 2023. The service has been set up to have two clinical psychologists and an assistant psychologist who provide mental health support to children upon diagnosis of a brain tumour, with ongoing support until they reach adult services. They also give vital help to the rest of the family including parents, siblings and grandparents.
Alder Hey is one of Europe’s busiest children’s hospitals, providing care for over 330,000 children each year. Patients are referred to the unit for cancer diagnosis and treatment from catchment areas in Merseyside, the Isle of Man, North Wales and parts of Lancashire, Staffordshire and Cheshire. There are approximately 43 children and young people newly diagnosed with brain and spinal tumours each year seen within the Paediatric Neuro-Oncology Service at the hospital.
Tom’s Trust’s service
Before Tom’s Trust provided funding to the department, only children with high-risk brain tumours benefited from mental health care at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Approximately 65 patients were seen each year for neuropsychological assessment and/or psychological therapy. But 75%-80% of patients are children who are five years post-treatment at Alder Hey, and before the service began, they would only receive help after seeking it for significant difficulties.
Tom’s Trust’s funding has meant an additional 100 children can be helped each year, to support their long-term improvement in quality of life, and cognitive and psychological wellbeing. The funding has allowed the hospital to move from offering intervention only to those with significant clinical concerns to a new model that supports all children with brain tumours to achieve their full potential, improving the lives of long-term survivors.
As well as one-to-one sessions, the hospital offers group-based interventions to all families, including patients, parents/carers and siblings. A family’s Tom’s Trust psychologist will explain all the options available to a patient and their family.
How our psychologists help
Our clinical psychologists assess a child’s individual needs and form an understanding of their emotional state, their cognitive abilities and needs, what they are struggling with and what causes them anxiety. A brain tumour will affect a child’s thinking skills, such as attention, memory and processing speed. They can monitor this through neurocognitive assessments and will advocate for a family’s needs to the rest of their healthcare team and the child’s school. Tom’s Trust’s services help children and their families cope with a massive life change and get the very best from their treatments. The team will offer one-to-one psychological support for all family members and facilitate workshops and support groups. A family psychologist will help them to navigate any disabilities, and we also provide support for palliative care and bereavement for families who sadly lose a child.
Our team of psychologists at Alder Hey
Every family we help will be assigned a clinical psychologist from our expert team, who can meet with the family at any time – from when the child first comes to the hospital and is diagnosed to their move back home and into school again. Our psychologists are flexible with sessions, meeting at the hospital, at home, in a community setting, online or on the phone.
Clinical Psychologist, Alder Hey
I’m Meghan Owens, and I am a Clinical Psychologist at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. I have worked in the Clinical Health Psychology team in Alder Hey since 2020 as a qualified Clinical Psychologist but also completed clinical placements with the team as part of my training so have known the service since 2018! I have worked in various speciality teams at Alder Hey, including neuro-oncology, major trauma and craniofacial. This has provided me with lots of opportunities to develop skills and abilities that I look forward to bringing to my new Tom’s Trust role.
I have always had a passion for working with children and young people who experience chronic health conditions and their families, and have a specific interest in neuro-oncology work. I had the opportunity to attend the Posterior Fossa Society First Global Meeting in Liverpool in 2022 and it was amazing to hear about the work of Tom’s Trust. I am very much looking forward to working in collaboration with Tom’s Trust to support high levels of care for young people with brain tumours and their families, as well as helping to drive the vision of Tom’s Trust forward.