2021: Our year in grants
As 2021 draws to a close, we reflect on the funding we’ve given throughout the year. Thank you for your generous donations which have made this possible.
Barts Charity - 2021: Our year in Grants

A few of our 2021 funding highlights

Healthcare projects

£1.8m to implement a ‘vein to vein’ blood tracking system

This grant, supported with £363,000 from NHS Charities Together, will help install a ‘bedside electronic transfusion check’ system across the Barts Health NHS Trust hospitals. The largest use of this system in the world, the funding will help make the blood transfusion pathway digital and reduce the potential for the wrong blood being given to the wrong patient by prompting staff to carry out key steps in the correct order.  

Dr Louise Bowles (Consultant Haematologist and Clinical Director of Clinical Pathology) and Dr Laura Green (Consultant in Haemostasis and Transfusion Medicine) say: “This project will enable end to end electronic verification of the whole transfusion process in our hospitals, which will not only improve transfusion safety for patients, but it will also facilitate delivery of excellence in the transfusion service.”

Vein to Vein

£30k to develop a game to help young people transition to adult services

When a young person moves from a paediatric healthcare provider to adult services, this transition can be difficult. This grant will allow Barts Health to develop a ‘transition’ board game to ease the process. The game will exist in both a physical and digital format which young people can play with their families outside of the hospital setting.

Neil Fletcher, Roald Dahl Clinical Nurse Specialist for teenagers and young adults says: “For many people, moving away from a team of healthcare providers that they have known for many years is very challenging. This funding will help develop a game for young patients aged 11-13 which will allow them to explore and understand the process of transition from children’s to adult services in a more light-hearted way.”

Bridge Game - to transition from childrens to adults' services

£34k for a ‘Social Prescriber’ staff member

This funding will provide a ‘Social Prescriber’ at Newham Hospital. One of the aims of social prescribing is to reduce the lifestyle factors that can cause ill health. Pre-existing health inequalities have been greatly highlighted by the pandemic, and this social prescribing initiative hopes to tackle some of the causes of these inequalities by promoting healthy behaviours in the community and signposting patients towards resources to improve their health.  This might include affordable fitness classes, healthy eating resources, interpreting services or after-school clubs.

Andrew Kelso, Medical Director at Newham Hospital says: “Barts Charity is improving patient health in the widest sense by supporting a project to manage wider determinants of health at Newham Hospital. By working with our system partners in the local authority, we will place a social prescriber in the Urgent Care Centre to signpost patients to resources available to them. “Upstreaming” can improve patient outcomes and prevent further health problems by managing the non-medical causes as well as the medical ones.”

£366k to improve access for patients with pacemakers who need MRI scans

Almost half a million people in the UK require an implanted device like a pacemaker to support their hearts. Previously, it was not possible for patients with cardiac devices to have an MRI scan due to interaction of the strong magnets with the electronic device. It is now possible to carry out these scans as long as they are thoroughly planned, and all clinical departments involved work very closely together.

This funding will allow the project team to develop a ‘pacemaker passport’ which will integrate with an online cardiac device MRI referral platform previously built by the team. This work will empower clinicians across Barts Health NHS Trust and potentially beyond to offer cardiac device MRIs to all patients who need them.

Dr Anish Bhuva, Senior Cardiology Registrar at Barts Heart Centre and Clinical Lecturer in Data Science at Health Data Research UK says: “Implanted pacemakers and defibrillators are so effective that people survive their heart disease but then face other problems from having fragmented information about their device. This leads to difficult access to MRI for cancer and stroke, unnecessary chest x-rays, and delays to surgery or emergency care. Thanks to Barts Charity, we will now develop an electronic “pacemaker passport” containing personalised information that patients themselves own and can share with health professionals, such as at the time of MRI. This will help both doctors and patients benefit from the instantaneous and seamless flow of data, securely.”

Barts Heart Centre MRI

£36k for a Health and Wellbeing Support role for NHS staff

This grant has provided a ‘Wellbeing Prescriber’ in four of the Barts Health NHS Trust hospitals to offer psychological and physical wellbeing support for staff in patient-facing roles. The Wellbeing Prescriber might direct colleagues towards the wellbeing services currently available, or work directly with individuals to help resolve problems quickly. They are also responsible for engaging staff in the co-design and delivery of Barts Health’s wellbeing strategy, such as the design of the permanent staff hubs and future wellbeing initiatives.

Geraldine Cunningham, Associate Director – Culture Change and Trust Lead for wellbeing says: “We came up with the idea of Wellbeing Prescribers, as we had a vast wellbeing offer, however the challenge was translating the offer to busy colleagues, making sure our colleagues could access what was available and seek feedback so that we could develop the offer further. The Wellbeing Prescribers have had a really positive impact on ensuring our wellbeing offer was utilised and fit for purpose.”

Research projects

£2.6m to create the Barts Centre for Squamous Cancer

Squamous cell cancers are very common and affect many different organs such as skin, oesophagus, lungs and mouth. Oral cancers are a particular problem in South Asian patients in East London. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London, led by the Institute of Dentistry, will be brought together in a collaborative research Centre to study patients with squamous cell cancers in East London which will ultimately lead to better diagnostic tests and treatments for all sufferers.

Paul Coulthard, Dean for Dentistry and Institute Director, Institute of Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London says: “Oral cancer has been underfunded for any years, and we hope that by bringing our expertise together in this new centre we will be able to develop a better understanding of mouth cancer. Awareness of risk factors and symptoms is still very low, and we hope our work will improve detection, diagnosis, and access to treatment.

We know that the risk of being diagnosed with oral cancer is strongly associated with social deprivation, and this is a particular health challenge in London. This centre will enable us to develop a much better understanding of who is at risk and why, so that we can improve treatment and the quality of life for all those affected, both in the UK and wider afield.”

Barts Charity Squamous Cancer Centre

£266k to research lymphoma of the central nervous system

Lymphoma affecting the brain is a devastating form of blood cancer, particularly in patients where the disease has come back after treatment. Sadly, these patients survive only three months on average so there is an urgent need to identify new treatments for this disease. The aim of this project is to develop the team’s earlier research in this area and thoroughly test drugs which they believe can block the pathway which allows this form of cancer to grow.

Dr John Riches, Clinical Senior Lecturer at the Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary University of London’s School of Medicine and Dentistry says: “We were delighted to receive funding from Barts Charity to support our projectLymphoma affecting the brain can be a devastating form of blood cancer. However, this grant will allow us to study the metabolism of this cancer with the aim of understanding how existing drugs work and developing new therapies. We then aim to test these medicines in clinical trials to help cure more patients of brain lymphoma.”

PHGDH expression in lymphoma

£157k for a PhD student to study the genetic risk of coronary artery disease

Heart disease runs in families and studies have found 200 common genetic variants that predispose people to the disease. This funding will allow a PhD student to perform a cutting-edge experiment to examine the effect of all these variants on genes and particularly on blood vessel formation. The data generated from the project will be used towards future applications to further pursue this research into blood vessel genetics, with the eventual goal to aid the development of new treatments for heart disease.

Professor Panagiotis Deloukas, Director of the William Harvey Research Institute and Professor of Cardiovascular Genomics at Queen Mary University of London’s School of Medicine and Dentistry says: “Investigating the genetics of heart disease in over one million individuals around the world has been hugely productive in identifying the regions of the genome underlying this deadly disease. The challenge ahead is to translate these findings into molecular mechanisms that cause the disease, an endeavour that requires to identify first the causal polymorphisms in the disease With the Barts Charity generous support we are now able to undertake this study focusing on the genetic role of vascular processes in heart disease that can lead to novel drug targets.”

study the genetic risk of coronary artery disease

£266k to trial Art Therapy to help prevent burnout in NHS workers 

NHS clinicians are frequently exposed to work-related stress putting them at risk of burnout, and the pandemic has increased the pressure even further. A recent study of European intensive care staff following the Covid-19 pandemic showed 51% reporting severe burnout. will allow art therapist Megan Tjasink to take time out of her clinical duties to do research, scientifically testing the use of art therapy which has been shown to combat the symptoms of burnout. Researchers will work with 100 Barts Health NHS clinicians in high-risk specialties such as, Oncology, Intensive Care and Cardiothoracic, using a trial to test the impact of 6weeks of structured group art therapy sessions. The results of the project will feed directly into clinical practice at Barts Health to support further staff support initiatives.

Megan Tjasink, Lead Art Psychotherapist at Barts Health NHS Trust says: “There is now clear recognition of the need to find sustainable, creative and innovative ways of addressing the mental health impact of heightened and ongoing work-related stress on our clinicians. With support from Barts Charity we have been piloting the effective use of art therapy to address symptoms of burnout in Barts cancer doctors since 2015. Through this and other more recent creative responses to staff support during the pandemic, Barts has developed an international reputation for innovative art therapy for clinicians.

This grant will allow us to take a much needed and significant step forward to undertake an art therapy randomised control trial and will contribute significantly to the evidence base for the use of art therapy and creative body-mind psychological approaches to support clinician mental health.”

art therapy for doctors

Our Covid-19 response

Since March 2020 we’ve awarded for the Barts Health NHS Hospitals in response to Covid-19 – this has provided funding to support NHS staff wellbeing, to improve patient experience and for research to help us understand the virus and its impact better.

In December 2021 we announced funding of another £15,000 for staff wellbeing to help staff cope with the Omicron variant on top of winter pressures. Read more here.

Thank you again to all our supporters who’ve made this possible.

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