What do you do, Sally and Harriet?

Sally Watts and Harriet Ward work together as co-network managers for the South Thames Paediatric Network.
Colourful question marks drawn by a child

""May 2023

What do you do?

We are the co-network managers for the South Thames Paediatric Network. The network covers hospitals providing children’s and young people’s services across South London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex. We aim to ensure that all children and young people in the region have equal access to excellent care and that we help develop the workforce to meet current and future patient needs. We work with commissioners to ensure that there is appropriate investment and support of specialist children’s and young people’s services.

Why is the South Thames Paediatric Network important?

Children and young people with complex or specialist health needs often rely on professionals across a number of organisations, so it’s important that hospital services across the region are well coordinated and consistent.

We want children and young people across the region to have access to high-quality specialist paediatric care in the best place to suit their needs, and at the right time.

We’re responsible for the strategic development of specialist paediatric services in the South Thames region. We work closely with, and support, all the hospitals providing children’s and young people’s services in the region, so are well placed to bring about continued and significant benefits in the quality of care children and young people receive and to improve their treatment.

We lead the development of new services, monitor and evaluate them. We can also provide educational support to upskill clinicians within these new services. We also carry out a more operational role, supporting hospitals during periods when there is a surge in demand, such as during the winter, or during significant events, such as a pandemic.

The South Thames Paediatric Network also hosts a charity funded project looking at the provision of children’s therapies for the rehabilitation of children with complex needs.

What does the network do to achieve this?

Collaboration is key! We work with professionals right across the region.

Our work is focused on a number of important areas, such as critical care, gastroenterology, epilepsy, long term ventilation, surgery in children and the transition from paediatric to adult services.

We want to improve the quality of care right across the system. We develop guidelines, monitor patient need and the capacity to meet this need across the region, and support training and education. For example, we deliver webinars and study days that healthcare professionals working across the region can access.

We have been working closely with the Children’s, Teenagers’ and Young Adults’ Cancer Operational Delivery Network (ODN) hosted by RM Partners. We’ve been supporting them to deliver online education that benefits the staff at the Primary Treatment Centre (PTC) as well as the wider network of paediatric oncology shared care unit (POSCU) clinicians who are delivering children’s cancer services across the region. As we have strategic oversight of all children’s and young people’s services in the South Thames region we are well placed to support the ODN. It’s important that cancer care sits alongside other children’s services and that young people are cared for closer to home wherever possible.

How does the South Thames Paediatric Network support workforce development?

Having an appropriately skilled workforce where it is needed is absolutely critical to ensuring children and young people get the care and treatment they need. We play an important role in this. This includes delivering excellent training to professionals across the network in our areas of focus, fostering professional development and innovation, thinking carefully about future workforce needs, and encouraging service transformation for children and young people. We have the benefit of being able to look at the ‘bigger’ picture so can apply learning, our knowledge and expertise across both organisational and individual service boundaries.

It’s always great to hear positive feedback from our online training, workshops and study days. Working across a regional network, we can encourage collaboration and shared learning, which isn’t constrained by organisational boundaries.

What are you most proud of?

We’re most proud of developing strong and collaborative working relationships with individual services, organisations and now with the Integrated Care Boards to facilitate sustainable improvements to clinical care for children, young people and their families. 

It’s always great to hear positive comments from children and parents that demonstrate the impact of the work that we do. These quotes really drive home to us the importance of securing funding for, developing and opening services at network hospitals so families can receive care close to home.

“This hospital is near my house so we can easily get toys from home”

“I can nip home for a shower. I can see my other kids.”

The South Thames Paediatric Network is hosted by Evelina London Children’s Hospital and works independently with all hospitals across the region. Find out more on the STPN website

Colourful question marks drawn by a child

Thank you to the children and young people who have so brilliantly illustrated our blog pages.