News Hub

London NHS medic’s brave Channel efforts for Children’s lifesaving swim

Driven by their passion to help save young lives, two teams of London-based dedicated NHS clinicians will attempt to complete one of the most gruelling feats of human endeavour when they swim the English Channel in aid of the Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) and Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

The Evelina STaRfiSh swimmers make up two teams of six health professionals who work for Evelina London Children’s Hospital and South Thames Retrieval Service (STRS) – a clinical team who work in partnership with TCAA.

The South Thames Retrieval Service (STRS) are a team of intensive care doctors and nurses based at Evelina London. When the very sickest children in the south-east of England need to be transported to a PICU in London, STRS use an ambulance equipped with intensive care treatments to bring lifesaving care to the child.

As soon as STRS arrive, they get to work and continue to care for the child while they are being taken to hospital. STRS’s doctors and nurses are the same staff who work on the PICU at Evelina London, meaning those caring for the child have the greatest understanding of their condition and how best to help them.

The team of medics will gather on Dover shores this June and will be joining a further four teams in the challenge to navigate the 22.5-mile stretch as a relay in an effort to raise vital funds for the two charities.

Despite working tirelessly on the frontline throughout the pandemic and with lockdowns affecting training schedules, the 12 medics look forward to the challenge ahead for a cause they truly believe in – and they need the public’s support to help spur them on during these difficult times.

The swimmers will become part of a worldwide “family” of people who have conquered the famed stretch of water, home to the world’s busiest shipping lanes, but more than that they will help to keep families together through supporting the critical work of the national Children’s Air Ambulance and the Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

The Children’s Air Ambulance is a national service which is changing the face of paediatric and neonatal care through the high-speed transfer of critically ill babies and children – flying them from one hospital to another for specialist care.

Two clinically designed helicopters, based at Oxford and Doncaster, provide flying intensive care units and work with 10 NHS paediatric retrieval teams across the UK. If a child is too sick to fly, then the Children’s Air Ambulance can fly a specialist team directly to them.

All transfers of critically ill babies and children carry an inherent risk – the longer a child is out of the hospital, the greater that risk – but the aircraft’s ability to fly approximately four times faster than land ambulance minimises travel times and risk.

Children’s intensive care consultant at Evelina London, Dr Shelley Riphagen explained: “We’re excited to be involved in this event and the teams are looking forward to taking on this physical and mental challenge for both the Children’s Air Ambulance and our own Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

“The close partnership we have with the Children’s Air Ambulance enables us to safely transfer critically ill babies and children – helping to save young lives – and we welcome the opportunity to give something back to the charity.

“We wish everyone participating the best of luck, including those from Evelina, and encourage the public to support them in this challenge.”

The donations which will be split between the two charities are vital in keeping the services running and saving lives. On behalf of TCAA Special Events team, Hannah Jack added:

“We are delighted to have the Evelina STaRfiSh teams taking part in this incredible challenge.

“We’d like to thank them for all their hard work training and fundraising for the event so far – despite the difficulties they have faced in the current climate. Their belief and support of our charity and the Evelina is truly inspirational, and we look forward to seeing them in the water.

“To show these NHS medics support and to help keep them motivated whilst they can’t train in the water, please visit their JustGiving page:”