Update from one of our Tom’s Trust Psychologists
Angela, based in Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge
During the challenging times of lockdown, Children’s Cancer Services at Addenbrookes Hospital continued, albeit in a different way. Children continued to be diagnosed and treated. Some appointment were managed via video and telephone calls. Tom’s Trust funded psychologists continued to see patients on the ward. The medical team were very clear that it was important to continue to provide psychological support for patients and families. This was even more imperative when families were not able to access wider support systems such as friends and extended family due to lockdown. We therefore continued to be present in the hospital to provide support for newly diagnosed and children on treatment throughout lockdown.
Tom’s Trust funded Clinical Psychologists also adapted their way of working in line with NHS England’s guidance and conducted video calls to families who were unable to travel or not able to have face to face appointments at Addenbrookes. Therapy sessions are still undertaken this way. It has had some very positive feedback from families. We have explored issues such as anxiety, low mood, self esteem and trauma. We have also been part of a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) group video session for children transiting secondary school to help them express their worries and generate solutions together.
Leaflets were also designed and made to help families cope with isolation during lockdown followed by how to cope with coming out of lockdown and manage the mixed emotions this would bring.
We have now commenced face to face cognitive assessments along with our other MDT professionals. These assessments are very important as they help explore how a child thinks, remembers and processes information. We also explore and measure skills taught at school –such as reading, maths so that we can help determine if a child is at the age expected level and if they have any difficulties such as dyslexia. These assessments are really important as children who have a brain tumour may have a number of cognitive difficulties that need compensatory strategies. For example if we understand that a child has difficulties remembering verbal information but is much better at remembering visual information we can communicate this to school and parents and ensure strategies are put in place. We also want to track children over time as we know that certain treatments will impact on ongoing brain development. We want to assess children at various time points to ensure we have up to date knowledge of a child and capture any new difficulties that we can feedback to families and teachers and generate strategies. All our feedbacks to school are conducted via video link and this has worked very well.
We are currently planning to explore families’ experiences following the diagnosis of a particular type of brain tumour. We plan to run a focus group using a video platform. We feel that we can obtain some rich data this way and it will help us consider new ways to support families. Tom’s Trust funded psychologists continue to work on site at the hospital and from home and will creatively endeavour to reach families who need help as best we can.
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