Heartbeat, the region's leading cardiac charity, has invested £26,000 in a new Youth Worker who will be supporting young people with heart conditions.
Becky Cutler's new part-time position as a Cardiac PEEER Youth worker at the University Hospital Southampton (UHS) has been completely funded by Heartbeat for the next 12 months, with the role designed to support the mental wellbeing of 11-25 year olds with a long term or life-limiting heart condition.
Recognising a vital need for more hours for youth support in the cardiac unit, Becky – who was working as a general youth worker in child health - approached Consultant Cardiologist Kevin Roman. Citing the need for young people to have more access to regular one-on-one psychological, outpatient, and transitional support, Becky volunteered at the hospital for three months to shine a spotlight on the importance of having these hours place.
Impressed with Becky's dedication, and the positive impact that her work had on patients, the UHS secured funding for 12 months for her position. And, once that had run out, it was time for Heartbeat to get involved.
Dr Tara Bharucha approached the leading heart charity to request support for funding. A business case was put forward and was accepted.
Mark Ind, CEO of Heartbeat said: “This was a worthwhile project to support and coincidentally we had already been approached by Harry Shields, a 32 year old congenital heart patient from Guernsey, who had spoken about the lack of emotional support that he had as a youngster outside of his family unit. It would have been incredibly helpful to have a go to person at the hospital to discuss his issues with.”
Becky said: "I am there as a constant line of support, a friendly face that they have seen before as they go through their cardiac journey. Being a heart patient can create enough anxiety and worry for anybody, but for those growing up with the condition it can be even harder as they also have to contend with the day-to-day trials and tribulations of adolescence.
"That's why a big part of my role is providing 1-on-1 emotional and practical support as an inpatient and outpatient.”
She continued: “Another key part of my role is transitioning our patients from paediatrics to adults. We have a virtual transition service where we offer an hour appointment for a young person where we discuss all things to do with transition. This can range from understanding the technical terms about their condition, what to do in an emergency, how to look after themselves, and give important advice when it comes to recreational activities and life skills."
Other services Becky plays a supportive role in include the running of a virtual youth group, organising fun days, supporting patients at clinic appointments, and helping them speak up to make their own decisions about their care.
"This is particularly important when some of our young people are facing end-of-life care. It is crucial for them to feel seen, understand what they are going through, and be in full control of any decisions that they need to make."
Mark Ind, Chief Executive of Heartbeat, said: "Mental health in young people is hugely important, and, as Heartbeat continues to pledge its commitment to helping individuals with psychological and mental wellbeing support, we are proud to fund important projects such as the Cardiac PEEER Youth worker position."
He continued: "We are hugely inspired by the stories and strength of the many young people that we help and look forward to continuing our support in the future."