Consultant Respiratory Paediatrician
Dr Hazel Evans is a Consultant Respiratory Paediatrician at University Hospital Southampton, and holder of a Research Leaders Programme (RLP) award.
Her research focuses on helping babies and children with sleep disorders that affect their breathing.
Evidence to inform better care
Hazel has worked at UHS since 2009, and leads the sleep and ventilation service. The service has six respiratory paediatric consultants, supported by a large multi-professional team.
They care for babies and children, from across the South of England, who have a wide range of different conditions that affect their breathing at night. This includes around 10-15 inpatients at the hospital and 220 children on ventilation support in the community.
Her research is closely linked to her experiences in the clinic. She has found there is currently very little evidence to inform decisions around whether a baby or child needs oxygen.
“We get asked whether we should send babies who are premature or have a chronic lung disease home with oxygen,” she explains. “But often we don’t know whether we should give them oxygen or not, because we don’t have any reference ranges for what is normal for these babies.”
Through the research her RLP award will enable her to do, she hopes to gather this evidence. This will give her the information she needs to provide better care for her patients.
Helping babies and children sleep
Hazel already leads two studies at UHS, with support from her mentor Prof Cathy Hill, but she wants to do more. In the long-term, her goal is to spend half her time on research. She aims to use her RLP award to secure funding for three large studies.
The first project aims to collect data on the normal blood oxygen level of premature babies. This will support a trial looking at whether giving extra oxygen to premature babies with low levels improves their growth and development, and their ability to think and reason in later childhood.
The second of these will look at how much oxygen healthy babies have in their blood, and how this changes as they grow. She aims to recruit babies at their six week check by the GP, then measure their blood oxygen once a month until they reach a year old. This will help her determine how much oxygen babies normally have in their blood, so she knows when her patient’s levels are too low.
A third study will investigate whether surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids of children with Down Syndrome helps them breathe better at night. Children with sleep apnoea stop breathing for brief periods while they sleep. For most children, removing their tonsils and adenoids helps. But for children with Down Syndrome, it’s less clear whether this is an effective treatment.
Making new connections
While Hazel is already leading some studies, she’s aware that research is collaborative. It’s therefore vital to have the right connections, particularly for those looking to lead larger trials.
She hopes that the RLP, and the meetings and training events that come with it, will help her make the connections she needs to take her research to the next level.
“It’s amazing how many meetings there are to support people on the programme, which wouldn’t have been available to me,” she says.
“There will be people at all of them that potentially can help me to take ideas I’ve had for a long time to the next stage. It’s quite exciting really.”