Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

You are here: Home > About us > News > News archive > 2015 > Award for app which relaxes children prior to surgery

Award for app which relaxes children prior to surgery

24 February 2015

Anaesthetists Peter Brooks and Corina Lee from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital last night (23 February) won an NHS England Innovation Acorn Challenge Award for their RELAX Anaesthetics app.

Anaesthetists Peter Brooks and Corina Lee from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital last night (23 February) won an NHS England Innovation Acorn Challenge Award for their RELAX Anaesthetics app. This powerful tablet-based solution helps to relax and distract children while they are being anaesthetised prior to surgery. It makes the whole experience less painful, stressful and it makes it more likely that the children’s procedure will be a success.

The highly acclaimed NHS Innovation award recognises and rewards innovations at an early stage that have the potential to make a big difference to patients. The project has been funded by the charity, CW+, and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital as part of their Enterprising Health Partnership  which supports ideas from staff that improve patient care, while being financially sustainable. The app has been developed with digital consultancy and co-investor Imagineear Ltd.  

Corina Lee says: “We are delighted to have been presented with this fantastic award. We have been testing the tablet app for a number of months and to be creating this product to help children, families and staff is really exciting. The amount of time spent during induction of anaesthesia represents a significant proportion of the workload of the theatre, even in simple cases. We are lucky to have had initial funding from CW+ and the hospital to get this off the ground. With the prize money from this award we would like to roll it out to other hospitals.”

When children become stressed before an operation, it can delay surgery or result in operations being cancelled. This is a problem that paediatricians across the country face every day. The app has been designed to provide a better experience for anxious children and their families, while saving clinicians time and reducing anaesthetic drugs costs.

Every year, the hospital performs 5,189 operations on children. Anaesthetising children through cannulation (intravenously) is the preferred choice—at £5 per child. The alternative method, gas inhalation, costs £13 per child. Currently the hospital is only able to use the cannulation method on 57% of children due to the stress and anxiety it causes them.

This new tablet app provides art, music and games to help calm children at the touch of a button. It can cater for different ages from 2–16. The app uses profiling information on patients to suggest the best content for each child.

The app has been tested across a range of patients in the hospital and is already proving effective. Kate, mum of six year old, Rosa, who tried the app prior to surgery, says: “It’s fantastic. It takes away the stress. Last year, for another operation, she had no distraction and was horrified. It took an hour and a half to get her down. This is amazing. This time her anaesthetic took just four minutes.”

Research suggests that patients who become anxious before operations are more likely to have slower wound healing (Broadbent et al, 2003) and more complicated post-operative recovery (Johnston and Wallace, 1990). The effectiveness of the tablet app will be analysed in a study which will measure length of time to be induced, number of intravenous attempts needed, success of intravenous induction, cost of induction agents (IV propofol vs inhalation sevoflurane), child anxiety, parent anxiety and satisfaction, and anaesthetist anxiety and satisfaction alongside qualitative data. This data will be collated in spring 2015.

The app was developed by award-winning digital partners, Imagineear Ltd and will be launched in May 2015.