Funded in 2021

In 2021, despite the ongoing issues related to the Coronavirus pandemic, we continued to work with local hospitals, respite centres and support projects to fund projects focusing on improving children’s physical and emotional well-being and offering extra help for parents and carers.

On this page you can find out more about the projects we successfully funded during the year and how they have helped children and their families across Sussex.

Medical equipment

Infant resuscitaire battery

The Trevor Mann Baby Unit looks after many premature babies who need special help soon after they are born. Being moved from the maternity ward to the TMBU requires a special piece of equipment called a resuscitaire which keeps babies warm while in transit.

This newly funded battery pack provides the power for the resuscitaire along with other medical devices, allowing more advanced ventilation to be started in the theatre, and will reduce delays in getting the babies the best care possible.




Replacement Masimo Sleep Study Monitor

Sleep studies are used for several vital reasons at The Alex including helping to decide if babies are ready to be weaned off oxygen, diagnosing sleep disordered breathing and providing vital information for patients receiving non-invasive ventilation.

The Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital currently has one monitor, but as patient numbers increase a second machine is vital in ensuring there is no break in the provision of these studies when the machine needs servicing or if the worst happens and one breaks down.

The hospital currently performs at least two sleep studies a week, meaning over 100 babies and children are supported every year. Without this equipment patients may need to travel into London to have the same sleep study done which would delay the time in being able to alter treatment as these studies are vital in providing the required evidence for these changes.

This new Masimo Sleep Study Monitor comes with an updated software package and a modem cable which will make it easier to download the results from the study.

The monitor will ensure that sleep studies can continue to be provided at The Alex and benefit those patients whose treatment plan is dependent on having a sleep study undertaken.

Co2 Monitor

We are funding this  child friendly Co2 Monitor which will allow the medical staff at the Alex to continuously monitor their young patient’s carbon dioxide levels. By monitoring these levels, staff can ensure timely medical interventions and avoid the disruption and trauma of lots of blood tests.

It will also help them to stabilise the ventilation support to patients and quickly alert medical and nursing staff to any change in the child’s condition, all of which means that they can better monitor the length of a hospital stay.

The monitor will also be able to provide sleep studies closer to home avoiding the disruption of a trip to London for the same study.


Asthma Controller Sensor

Asthma is the most common long-term medical condition affecting children in the UK. The best way to manage this condition is to make sure patients regularly take their preventative inhaler. However, a common, and preventable problem, is children forgetting to regularly take this medication.

As a way of combatting this problem, we are funding a great piece of equipment that aims to help families and their medical teams have clear information on how their medication is being used. The Hailie sensor attaches to asthma inhalers, specifically the preventative version, via a Bluetooth link to a smartphone app and enables children and parents monitor their mediation.

It also provides reminders for patients to take their puffer at the correct times and links to a clinical portal for doctors to see how their patients are getting on.

The use of these devices has shown to increase the adherence to medication by 59%, reduce hospital admissions for asthmatic children by 80% and reduce the use of their reliever medication by 45%.

This all works towards children’s general quality of life as well as reducing health care intervention and hospital admissions.


Distraction Toys for the A&E at the Alex

The Play Team at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton works hard to help children and young people feel as comfortable as they can when they visit the hospital, whether it’s for an operation, ongoing treatment or a short visit to the A&E department.

But coming into hospital can be a scary experience, especially if you’re in pain and scared about what your treatment will involve. So, we have agreed to fund some new distraction toys to help the children, families and staff in the A&E.

These toys will aim to help create a more relaxed and positive environment and mean that procedures are more successful and less traumatic for everyone involved, especially if there has been a long wait before treatment.

Sensory equipment for Whoopsadaisy

Whoopsadaisy is a small Brighton based charity that helps children with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities to reach their full potential.

They provide weekly group sessions and holiday club activities for children aged 5-12 focussing on supporting their physical skills alongside improving their self-confidence and communication. This could include being able to sit at the table for a family meal or get dressed on their own but ultimately, it’s all about what children can do rather than what they can’t.

We are funding a range of new sensory, play and therapy equipment for the group to help children continue their progress as they begin a phased return to in-person sessions after a year of online support.


Audio-visual equipment

Staff within the NHS have had to develop a range of new ways of working since the emergence of COVID-19. Along with PPE equipment, they are also developing new ways of working which involve fewer people in the same room.

So, we are funding some audio-visual equipment for the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital to help medial and nursing staff meet online for staff handovers, teachings, presentations and staff meetings.

This means that restrictions around the number of people who can meet face to face do not impact on the day-to-day work of the staff team and they are able to remain a safe and effective staff team


Drove Road Summer Party

Drove Road is a respite and residential service for children and young people with autism, learning disabilities and challenging behaviour in Portslade. This summer Rockinghorse are funding a summer party with a circus theme for the children and families that use the service.

Social situations like parties and barbeques can be challenging for children with disabilities and their families, but with the support of the trained staff at Drove Road this party will be a great chance to have some fun together in a safe and supportive environment.

Along with some healthy and well-balanced food, everyone will be able to enjoy face-painting, food stalls and circus themed games, all accessible to a range of skills and abilities. This means that parents and siblings will be able to experience a great day together, helping to build self-esteem, confidence and strengthening their bond.


Good grief toys

We are funding a set of specialist wooden toys and characters for Hill Park School in Portslade, aimed at helping children to process any grief that they may be experiencing.

The school is a specialist educational needs setting and many of the pupils have experienced bereavement and loss, but with many being non-verbal or with significant communication difficulties, additional support to explore their emotions is really helpful.

Children can experience grief in many different ways and this set of specially made toys can help children with complex needs learn how to express this grief, deal with other difficult emotions and help them understand and communicate their feelings about death, bereavement, and loss.

Amelia Wilton, Family Support Worker at Hill Park, explained how important these toys could be: We have recently experienced the sudden loss of a teacher and a child with very complex needs who was in hospital long term sadly lost his father very suddenly.

 “This set would have allowed us to communicate with the children about their beloved teacher passing and give the child who lost his father the chance to communicate his thoughts and worries, whilst supporting his understanding of what was happening in his family in a visual and tangible way.”


In-ground trampoline for Drove Road

We have agreed to fund a brand new, in-ground trampoline for Drove Road residential scheme in Brighton.

Drove Road is a residential service for children and young people with severe learning disabilities and challenging behaviour. Many of the young people staying there have autism and high sensory needs and during their time at the school they are offered a range of activities and experiences, including regular sessions on a trampoline, to help them manage their emotions and behaviours successfully.

The scheme has had their existing trampoline for over 10 years, and it’s used on a daily basis by the young people. The movement of the trampoline provides therapeutic exercises for people with a wide variety of physical and learning disabilities and can have many positive impacts on the brain and behaviours often seen in people on the autistic spectrum.

All of which is why we are funding this new trampoline for Drove Road, to enable as many young people as possible to continue to access the positive benefits of the equipment as possible.


Ride on cars for the Alex

Giving children something fun to focus on when they are heading into an operation can really help calm nerves and make them feel more in control.

So, we are funding some brilliant new toy cars so that young patients can ride themselves to the operating room for their surgery. These are an excellent incentive to help get them to the theatre as they are often very anxious or overwhelmed.

They also massively decrease the chances of surgery needing to be cancelled or postponed which causes wasted theatre slots, additional costs to the NHS and a traumatic experience for the child themselves.



Support for bereaved families

When a family lose a baby, photographs are often the most cherished memories that parents can have to remember their little one.

Because of this we understand the importance of producing high-quality images to commemorate their baby, so we have agreed to fund a new camera and printer for staff on the Trevor Mann Baby Unit (TMBU). The camera has a variety of different settings which mean that staff will be able to take photos in a variety of settings, producing high quality, beautiful photographs for families to keep.

In addition, the bereavement of a child can also greatly impact on their siblings, so we are also providing funding for a range of books specifically for brothers and sisters who have lost a new sibling to help them to understand the situation. This is especially important when the bereavement is sudden or unexpected.

This support will hopefully help the TMBU contribute to the support they offer families during an extremely distressing event. This in turn will hopefully help with the ongoing bereavement care for the family and any other children they may have.


Feeding Therapy Equipment

Rockinghorse have agreed to fund a range of equipment to provide positive eating and drinking experiences for children staying at The Alex and for those with outpatient appointments.

For children with swallowing difficulties, those who need to develop their feeding skills and those who are weaning off feeding tubes, support to promote safe feeding is really important.

To help support this, we are providing five new highchairs with adjustable tables and heights and supportive, safe seats along with a range of equipment including beakers, cutlery and crockery aimed at helping children to become more comfortable during mealtimes.

Over the last year the speech therapy department has worked with 180 children, both inpatients and outpatients across The Alex and the Trevor Mann Baby Unit. This means that this equipment will help many children to develop their feeding and make mealtime a more positive experience.


Sensory Equipment

The Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath often cares for extremely premature babies towards the end of their hospital stay. As these babies get older, they become more aware and need more visual stimulation.

In order to help with their development, Rockinghorse is funding some new equipment for the SCBU which will support a range of different visual and motor skills. The new equipment includes a patterned mirror, a laser sphere and a large, mirrored floor mat.

In addition to these more physical pieces of equipment, we are also funding wireless speaker so that the staff at the SCBU can continue to offer a music hour for the babies while they are unable to have in-person visits from musicians.


Play Equipment

The Healthy Futures Team is a Specialist Public Health Nursing Service which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of children aged 0 to 19 across Brighton. The Nursery Nurses within the team provide specialist support for children who have been identified as needing extra help by a health visitor.

We are funding a range of toys so that the team can provide video call play sessions with younger children who have a development delay. As the team are unable to currently do face to face visits, it’s important that they are still able to provide support to vulnerable children and families via video play sessions.

These toys will make sure families have the right tools to help support their child’s needs and can help encourage them during these important virtual play sessions. These meetings offer advice and support alongside play sessions to encourage the children’s speech and language, social and play skills and fine and gross motor skills development.


Toniebox Audio Book Readers

The Toniebox is an audiobook player that uses different character figures to play stories without the need for an internet connection but more crucially allows up to 90 minutes of recorded speech or singing that can then be played back at any time.

Children who are in hospital long-term can often spend large periods without their parents/carers which means they can often miss out on hearing the voices of their loved ones. As it has been proven that hearing familiar voices is important to infant brain development, this equipment will be really helpful for both the psychological and emotional needs of long-term patients in The Alex.

These players are also fantastic for children with visual impairments or other complex needs who may not be able to use other forms of entertainment like television or light-projectors. And they can also help to soothe and comfort babies with a familiar voice when their parents aren’t able to be with them.

Put simply, the Toniebox Audio Book Readers will make a huge difference to the patients’ bond with their families that is often disrupted by a long stay in hospital.


Extratime iPads

The Extratime club was set up in 2003 by two parents who were struggling to find suitable, affordable childcare for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Since then, the club has gone on to support hundreds of families across Brighton, Hove and West Sussex and becoming one of the largest providers of inclusive play and leisure in Sussex.

We have agreed to fund the purchase of two iPads for the club so that they can transfer their current paperwork process into an electronic format and enable staff to keep parents more involved in their children’s activities while at the club.

Currently staff have to complete up to 11 pages of information for each child covering all their support and medical needs. Being able to reduce this long-winded process will decrease the stress on staff and parents and make it much easier to share across the team in a safe, secure manner.

Along with collating information on the support needs of each of the participants, the tablets will also be used as a communication tool to share information and photographs quickly and easily with parent carers, keeping them involved.


We have received this update from Jenny Kay, Funding & Impact Lead at Extratime: “The tablets are already having an impact at the clubs, making it much easier for our play/youth workers to access vital information about children’s needs, and they’re also regularly being used to take and share photos with parent carers so they can see what their child has been getting up to, which I know is especially appreciated by the families of non-verbal children.”


MOTOmed Gracile Bike

We are funding a specialist motorized movement therapy device specifically designed for children in wheelchairs for the Woodlands Meed School in Burgess Hill.

Woodlands Meed is a special school supporting young people with a wide range of learning needs and disabilities. The MOTOmed Gracile Bike will help the pupils at the school with their mobility and physiotherapy sessions and as it’s fully adjustable, it can be adapted for any of the children using it.

The narrow distance between the foot pedals and the height adjustable motor shaft allow for physiologically correct movements, even for small children, and the large colour training display helps keep them motivated to keep up their sessions.

The Occupational Therapists at Woodlands Meed have seen the benefits and improvements that regular use of the MOTOmed can have to build strength and mobility. Not only does it help increase the range of movements for the children, but it also gives the users an enjoyment of movement not usually available to them in their wheelchairs.

This is a great piece of equipment that will be used by lots of children at the school for many years to come, helping them improve their strength, mobility and confidence.


Visualite Ceiling Lights

We are funding a two beautiful Visualite ceiling light for the patient area within the children’s emergency departments at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton and the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

These lights create a relaxing, ambient atmosphere which will help reduce any anxiety felt by the children and their parents while they are waiting for treatment. The images within the light can also help with distracting children while they are undergoing treatments and procedures in the hospital.

Powered by edge light technology and supplied with a stunning range of visuals, the Visualite system creates amazing lighting effects which can really open up the space.


Daniela Cunha, Senior Sister in Accident and Emergency at the Princess Royal Hospital explains what a difference this new equipment will make at the hospital:

“Having ways to distract children while undertaking treatments they might find distressing, like blood tests and stitches, is key to calming anxious and stressed children down and so treating them as quickly as possible. To have something interesting to look at that you can describe and chat about together really engages the children and so keeps them distracted.”


Specialist Toys & Resources

The Specialist Nursery Team at Seaside View Child Development Centre in Brighton provide play sessions for children with additional developmental needs.

These invaluable sessions, usually offered in 6-8-week blocks, are used to assess, diagnose, and support these children and offer support and advice to their parents and carers. However, since the Covid-19 pandemic the team has been unable to provide these much-needed sessions, meaning the families who need this support the most have been unable to access it.

But the team at Seaside View have developed ways to provide these sessions virtually, meaning that children are still able to access the support they need along with their parents and carers being able to help their development with the support and experience of the team.

In order to provide these sessions, Rockinghorse is funding the purchase of 18 toy boxes containing the same toys and equipment usually used by the sessions but now delivered to the families to use at home.

The play sessions can then take place online, with the team able to assess and monitor patient’s development, directly enabling them to help them progress using the right mix of equipment and support.

These sessions will promote the physical developments, communication skills and emotional well-being of the children along with empowering their parents and carers to continue with their child’s daily programme and be involved in their progress.


Mobile Sensory Trolley

The Play Team at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital has asked for our support to update the sensory trolleys that they use throughout the hospital.

The new Baby Voyager trolley is really lightweight and easy to manoeuvre around the hospital beds and provides children with a wonderful sensory experience. The Voyager includes, among other things, fibre optics, a projector and Bluetooth radio, all aimed at creating a fully immersive sensory experience for children.

Sensory equipment like this is invaluable for children with additional needs and long-term patients at the Alex. They also create a calm environment and distraction for children in the A&E and x-ray department, making treatment a much less stressful experience.



Additional support to Chalkhill during the Covid-19 crisis

For the past few years, Rockinghorse has supported Chalkhill Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit through the funding of an activities programme for children and young people with severe and complex mental health issues.

The programme compliments medical care and has made a huge difference to the young patients at the hospital.

Sadly, in these uncertain times, frontline staff at Chalkhill have had to scale back the programme as many of the activities involve inviting people into the hospital to deliver sessions, something that simply isn’t possible at the moment or for the next few weeks.

This is having a devastating effect on the health and overall wellbeing of the vulnerable young people admitted to the hospital. Staff at Chalkhill are working long hours, looking after patients who can struggle to understand the effects of the virus and for whom times of such huge anxiety and upset make their mental health so much worse.

Rockinghorse are pledging support to the nursing staff and patients at Chalkhill by helping them to purchase equipment such as iPads and tablets, personal DVD players, digital radios, art materials, sports equipment, books and DVDs, which the young people can use while in this time of isolation. Having ways to fill their leisure time is vital for these young people already struggling with their mental health.