New funding for Royal Brompton Hospital’s children and young people’s music programme

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Agi, a five-year-old patient at Royal Brompton Hospital, participating in a Vocal Beats session

A music programme for children and young people at Royal Brompton Hospital receiving treatment for heart and lung diseases, has received an additional £100,000 funding from the charity Youth Music.

Vocal Beats provides inspiration and respite through a range of high-quality musical activities including singing, beatboxing and ukulele. The project works with children and young people up to the age of 25 who are facing complex chronic and/or life limiting health conditions.

Mary Paterson, Head of Arts at Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals said: “We are thrilled to receive this new funding from Youth Music which will help us to expand the programme, supporting more children and young people through music at Royal Brompton.

“Through Vocal Beats, we see children who are facing difficult diagnoses and treatments thriving, not only with their musical skills, but with their confidence, joy and creativity.”

For teenagers and young people, as part of the one-on-one singing and beatboxing sessions offered, they are taught about postural awareness and breathing exercises to support both their musical journey and respiratory health.

Performance-based sessions with babies and toddlers are tailored to their favourite songs and encourage them to participate through clapping, moving, dancing and playing along with simple instruments.

Agi, a five-year-old patient at Royal Brompton Hospital, has participated in Vocal Beats sessions since birth having been in hospital for large parts of her life, undergoing four major open heart surgeries during that period. 

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Agi has participated in Vocal Beats sessions since birth

She was transferred to Royal Brompton Hospital immediately after birth after being diagnosed with a congenital heart defect whilst still in the womb. Her mum, Emma, said that both Agi and the family benefitted from Vocal Beats right from this early stage.

“Agi has been in and out of hospital for much of her life, and the sessions with the music team have really lifted spirits, not only for Agi herself, but for all of us as a family.

“I remember crying the first time the team came around to see her in paediatric intensive care because they brought such indescribable joy to an incredibly challenging and stressful time.”

During one of her stays at Royal Brompton, Agi went into cardiac arrest, and once resuscitated was placed on ECMO (a type of mechanical circulatory support). During this time, she had a stroke and wasn’t able to move the left side of her body.

Emma said: “I believe part of Agi’s recovery was down to her sessions with the Vocal Beats team. She was encouraged to play along with the musicians using a tambourine or xylophone and this provided motivation for her to move her arm.  As well as the physical rehabilitation, pure delight was evident through her smiles. The power of music, fun and play in healing and being able to take part in life like any other child cannot be underestimated.

“One of the biggest impacts of Vocal Beats for us has been that it has meant that Agi is not afraid of the hospital, she is actually excited to go in!

“Agi is doing really well now. She goes to a mainstream school with her twin sister and her confidence is blossoming. As a family we cannot thank enough everyone at Royal Brompton who never gave up on her.”

The new funding from Youth Music recognises the impact and importance of Vocal Beats, which has grown in scale and ambition since starting in 2015.

The new grant will also support the extension of Vocal Beats to patients with cancer at Guy’s Hospital. Royal Brompton and Guy’s are both part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust’s specialist cardiovascular and respiratory services for babies, children and young people are provided at the purpose-built Evelina London children's hospital on the St Thomas' Hospital site in Lambeth, Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea and Harefield Hospital in Hillingdon.

Contact information

Media enquiries
Phone: 020 7188 5577
Email: press@gstt.nhs.uk