NHS children’s hospitals are holding hundreds of appointments at extra clinics on Saturday to help deal with record backlogs caused by the pandemic.
The so-called “Super Saturday” drive is part of the National Paediatric Accelerator Programme, an initiative at 10 hospitals trying to tackle long waiting lists.
The day will also see the use of innovative techniques, including virtual reality equipment, as well as Lego and tours of hospital facilities to help youngsters feel more at ease.
The event comes as the NHS announces patients will be able to see a GP on Saturdays and in the evenings to help it cope with backlogs.
NHS England data published in February revealed a record 6.1 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of December – the highest number since records began in August 2007.
Alexandra Norrish, national director of the programme, said: “The pandemic has inevitably had a knock-on effect on non-urgent care, but our incredible staff are still pulling out all the stops to rapidly recover routine services, and since the paediatric accelerator programme was launched last year we have already seen 37,000 additional appointments.
“Local teams continue to go above and beyond for patients, and through events like today’s paediatric Super Saturday we are ensuring as many children as possible benefit from the world-class care the NHS provides.”
As part of the drive, some children undergoing minor surgery at Leeds Children’s Hospital will get to experience Virtual Reality Distraction Therapy (VRDT), which will see specialists accompany them into theatre to use VR equipment to help transport them to a different world, reducing anxiety, providing distraction, and removing the need for general anaesthetic.
The hospital has been conducting research into the application of VRDT in partnership with Starlight Children’s Foundation, to help further understand the benefits of the innovative technology and medical applications.
At London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), lab, pharmacy, and theatre teams will be running tours to show patients what happens during surgeries or during sample processing with the aim of removing fear and replacing it with curiosity.
Sheffield Children’s Hospital will be asking families about any barriers they experience attending appointments with the help of Lego bricks. The scheme uses the “Lego Serious Play” methodology, which supposes people can express their views and ideas more easily by creating something.
A “sensory-friendly” vaccination clinic is also being held at Concord Leisure Centre in Sheffield for children and young people with autism and learning disabilities.
Mat Shaw, chief executive at GOSH, said: “Super Saturday is a great opportunity for us to help even more children and young people as our services continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
“We have some brilliant activity planned for this weekend with lots of our staff getting stuck in. It is down to their hard work and dedication that we can continue to tackle waiting times for the patients and families that rely on us, so we say a huge thank you to all the teams taking part.”