One of the Trustees explains the charity’s work.
“The South West Children's Heart Circle was registered as a Charity in 1974, originally as Bristol Heart Circle but as the Bristol unit is a Regional Centre of Excellence now we draw cases from all over the South West, from Cornwall to Gloucester and South Wales to Swindon. Most of the work is elective surgery (ie planned) but often you will see parents wandering around in the night clothes they had on when an emergency strikes, with no money or a change of clothes, having come up from say Cornwall in an ambulance with their very sick child.
We exist to support the cardiac unit at Bristol Royal Children's Hospital in terms not only of helping provide equipment which is not within the NHS budget but also to provide support for families whose misfortune it is to find themselves requiring the services of the Ward (32). We have a static caravan at Brean Down for the use of patients and their families. It gets well used. The fact that it is so close to the hospital is important. We also provide financial help to those who may need it. Every case is different so it is hard to pick up on any single issue but I hope you get the drift.
The equipment we assist with the purchase of, is, as mentioned above not that which is within NHS budgets. Things like special treadmills where blood oxygen levels can be monitored whilst the heart is under planned stress (usually post operative for complex heart surgery patients), specialist cots for babies, mobile echo machines to avoid disturbing patients and having to move them from the ward to the e.c.g. suite. It can also be as basic as toys for the truly brilliant dedicated play unit. The work of the staff on this unit is not always recognised but they help to keep the children in a calm state pending life saving procedures (children are not always the most co-operative patients!). It is a very important part of the hospital regime.
Every year (in recent times) we ask the senior paediatric cardiologists for their "wish list" of equipment they would like but cannot get through the NHS and if we have the funds we allocate these for such purchases. It can often take 12 to 18 months for the hospital to acquire the chosen equipment but as they get very generous terms and do not have to pay VAT etc. we leave it to the Primary Care Trust to sort this out.”