Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals carry out some of the most complicated heart and lung procedures in the world. The Charity are committed to funding innovative treatment, equipment and research to support our hospitals' world-class care. 

In partnership with the research office, the Charity launched a fellowship in 2019 for non-medical health professionals, which awards staff with up to £50,000 in funding, allowing them to undertake up to 12 months of work to develop their research skills and produce data to win further funding. 

The four successful candidates were selected by a panel of clinical experts and lay advisors who looked at several factors including: patient benefit, scientific advancement and training plans. 

The awardees for 2020 are Thomas Burgoyne, Senior Paediatric Scientist, Timothy Jenkins, Specialist Physiotherapist, Ali Nuh, Senior Biomedical Scientist and Charlotte Wells, Specialist Respiratory Paediatric Physiotherapist. We spoke to Charlotte about her role at Royal Brompton and goals for the grant. 

How long have you been at Royal Brompton Hospital? 

I first started working at the Royal Brompton in 2006 – 2009, then I worked in several other London hospitals and returned to the paediatric physiotherapy team at RBH in 2015 and have been here ever since.  

How did you become interested in this area of physiotherapy? 

I have always been fascinated with breathing patterns as a form of movement analysis then as part of holistic patient centred care for children, young people and adults with respiratory conditions – whether in sport, ventilation or symptom control. 

Working with children with asthma, their breathing pattern can so often cause horrible symptoms which are hard to differentiate from their lung condition. Breathlessness is a complex multifactorial symptom. 

I really enjoy taking children with asthma through a journey to learn more about themselves, their breathing and their symptoms. I aim to empower them with ways to improve their breathing so that they can fully participate in school and sports. 

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 

When patients set their own goals on our first session together – something that if I had a magic wand, I could make better for them with physio – and then reviewing them after several sessions and we have achieved them.  

How does physiotherapy benefit asthma patients?  

Physiotherapy for children with asthma has shown to improve quality of life scores (for both child and parent/guardian), school attendance, sports participation as well as reduce anxiety levels, hospital admissions, out of hours GP and A&E attendance. 

Physiotherapy interventions and treatments commonly include symptom differentiation, breathing pattern retraining, airway clearance techniques, exercise interventions, musculoskeletal interventions, relaxation and hypersensitive cough control techniques. With the ultimate goal of helping to reduce asthma symptoms a child might experience and help them to become specialists in understanding and managing their symptoms.  

What do you hope to achieve with this grant? 

Post COVID-19, healthcare must innovate and explore new technologies and telemedicine services. Telemedicine offers ease of access for patients and carers, reduced cost of travel and less time off work or school. Barriers to telemedicine include poor internet connections and access to technologies which particularly affects those living in poverty. 

Moreover, specialist therapies such as breathing pattern retraining need therapeutic handling, palpation, detailed clinical observation and feedback that can only be done in person. Before embedding health delivery transformations into clinical services, it is essential to analyse efficacy, acceptability and feasibility for patients, carers and physiotherapists. I hope to address which tele-physiotherapy platform is most acceptable and feasible to maintain efficacious interventions for children with asthma. 

How do you feel about receiving this grant? 

I am thrilled to be successful in receiving this grant – it will make such a difference to the children within the specialist children’s asthma service at RBH and in the development of this service and the electronic resources available to all children across the UK. I am so excited to start this work, we are aiming for a start date of Nov 1st. I am over the moon to receive this grant and have this opportunity that would not have been possible without the Charity Fellowship grant.  

Our CEO Gill Raikes said: “I wish the people who will take forward the fellowships all the very best of luck with the study and the outcomes and I look forward to hearing more about how they have progressed.”

Read more about the fellowship on the Trust’s website