Nestled in the corridor between the Royal Hospital for Children and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow is a very special unit upon which many lives depend.
“If you can imagine a restaurant with 80 different dishes on the menu, that’s just the start of understanding what we do here,” says Derek Graham, who runs the Special Feeds Unit.
As the name suggests, Derek and his team prepare individual milk-based feeds for up to 80 patients a day, from pre-term babies right up to young adults. This can mean as many as 500 bottles being prepared every single day, with some feeds having up to eight products in one single feed.
The unit is the largest in Scotland and meets the nutritional needs of patients with a range of complex needs, helping to both nourish them and manage their conditions. The entire process relies on the smooth operation of the feeds store room, containing around 60 different types of formula as well as a vast array of nutrients and vitamins.
Derek said: “To many of the staff we are known as the “wee lab” and our unit has been in existence for 35 years now, having been previously based at Yorkhill. We prepare individual feeds for lots of children, working with standard formula, specialist formula, individual nutritional ingredients and breast milk.
“We can modify ingredients in feeds such as protein, carbohydrate, different types of fat, vitamins, minerals and thickener to meet the nutritional needs of our patients who can orally feed or be supported by tube feeds.
“I love my job and get so much satisfaction from being part of the children’s recovery.”
One family who has benefitted from the expertise of the team is Cole Smith’s. Cole, who is three and from Barrhead, was born with a condition called VACTERL Syndrome.
This refers to several birth defects that frequently occur in conjunction with one another. The letters stand for vertebrae, anus, cardiac, trachea, oesophagus and renal (or kidneys) and limbs, which are the areas of the body impacted by these defects.
Cole mum Jade said: “The team here is great and they have basically fed Cole since he was born. As well delivering specially made feeds to the ward, they have also shown me how to do this and ‘trained’ me to do it at home. This gave me a lot of confidence as it’s a worry taking a very sick child home.
“They are always there to help, even when I am at home with Cole. It’s great to know they are always there for us; I really appreciate everything they have done for Cole and I.”
Paediatric dietitian Carla Rennie said: “The contribution of the Special Feeds Unit is invaluable to our work here at the Royal Hospital for Children.
“What they do is so specialised and as well as feeding the children while they are in our care, they also give tremendous support to parents before they go home. Leaving hospital with a sick child can be very daunting and the feeds complex, but they take parents through all the steps, ensuring they know how to make the preparations themselves. We are very fortunate to have this specialist service here.”
For further information either telephone 0141 201 4429 or email [email protected]scot.nhs.uk