Barclays Trade Staff Visit Get A-Head and QEHB

Posted by Anne-Marie on May 6, 2014


Recently members of staff from Barclays Trade Department  came to visit Get A-Head and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to see first-hand how the money they are raising is being spent.  Below is Michelle’s story of the visit.

On Friday 11th April Vicky Palmer, Lucy Antonini and I visited the Get A-Head charity manager Louise John who is based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Prior to receiving a tour of the maxillofacial and cyber-knife units we asked Louise a few questions around the charity and how your contributions have helped so far.

Louise advised that our funds are paid into a general account which assists with payment of three key objectives which are equipment, research and education. Equipment ranges from mini iPads to help speech therapy patients to specialised equipment used to diagnose and treat complaints. Research enables the professionals to understand how diseases work as well as developing existing and new medicines. Education ranges from sharing information to specialist nurse training and also includes scholarships to sponsor doctors with the hope of one day being able to understand and fight back against diseases.

Once Louise had given this update she arranged for us to visit the maxillofacial department where head and neck prosthetics are made for patients who have suffered as a result of accidents, burns, congenital deformities or oncology. We met Stefan Edmondson who is one of twelve consultants that work in this unit and they take patients on a life changing journey by working with them to plan, create, fix and maintain prosthetics. 


MaxFax 4 BarclaysThe lab at the QE is the largest lab in the world and is responsible for looking after all of the UK’s patients.

Here you can see some facial casts which are being prepared.






MaxFax 3 BarclaysFacial prosthetics range from ears and eyes to jaws and cheekbones, oh and they can do full facial rebuilds as seen in the picture.

This method is used for burns victims as well as soldiers who may have been injured in their line of duty.







The lab can create bone structures from resin which can be used to replicate actual bone structures in the human body. The structures are created by a cone beam or CT scan which transfers the scanned images onto a monitor and this enables bone density and measurements to be calculated. Once this is complete the data is transported to a 3D printer which creates bone structures from a resin. Once the structures are created and transplanted into a patient they can last for the rest of the patients’ life. (The Get A-Head charity has been able to supply a cone beam CT scanner to the unit).

 MaxFax Barclays







3D scanner Barclays










3D 2 scanner Barclays

Each 3D printer costs around £28k.

A partial jaw structure (like this one) has taken 26 hours and 40 minutes to print.





There are now more advanced 3D printers that could undertake this same activity in approximately 2 ½ hours (or can create larger body parts – complete limbs, larger cross sections) and they cost in the region of £125k each. Although the cost is 5 times more the creation time is around 10% of the current printing time so imagine how many prosthetics could be made each day.

Interestingly Stefan told us about future plans for a military library which is to be created at the QE where all military service personnel will be scanned at the point of sign up or prior to deployment. A hand held scanner could scan the whole body in just 15 seconds. The records will be stored and then in the event of a military injury body parts could be printed via the 3D printer from the stored images.

I asked Stefan about challenges in his role and he said there was a constant requirement to train new staff (there is quite a high turnover since the skills acquired are highly sought after therefore staff are often poached for other work streams in other organisations). Also, trusts don’t pay all of the costs for vital equipment which is why there is so much reliance on charities. I then asked Stefan what he finds most rewarding about his role and he advised he loves to make a child happy by creating a pair of ears for a child born with a congenital deformity. To see the smile on their face and share their pride by looking like everyone else makes his job worthwhile and he receives a lot of job satisfaction.

MaxFax 7 BarclaysFacial prosthetics are replaced every 18 months and patients are given two sets at a time – a winter and summer version which differ in colour for the seasons.  Here you can see a prosthetic ear on the right with a palette of colours to the left ready for colour co-ordinating.





MaxFax 5 Barclays

Eyes are created by painting an eyeball onto a prosthetic version, this is done by a technician copying the other eye and painting a mirror image onto the prosthetic eye. Facial prosthetics are often attached via magnets attached to the main facial structure. Eyeballs are attached to a small chain in the orbital or in some cases a complete orbital (eye frame) is created to hold the eye.




Our final stop was the cyber-knife unit which opened in June 2013. Surprisingly the cyber-knife is not a knife at all but is a radiotherapy machine which delivers radiotherapy to a pinpointed area resulting in greater accuracy of treatment and therefore an overall reduced therapy plan.

This precision tool is used for surgery of cancer as well as benign tumours. The cyber-knife comprises of BMW components that have been used to create an arm which can shape radioactive beams and shape those beams to deliver accurate radiotherapy.

CyberKnife BarclaysMRI and CT scans are used to create individual therapy plans so that beams can be exacted to a specific lesion so a bigger dosage of medicine can be administered. The cyber-knife is operated electronically from an observation room and a bed is attached to another robotic arm so that the patient can be moved into the exact location of the beam. The cyber-knife is the only one outside London and does not come cheap. A robot costs £3.5m, the room £1m and annual maintenance is £290k. Despite the high costs it is charities that have paid for this robot while the trust paid for the room as well as the on-going maintenance.

The benefits of the cyber-knife are the improvements to patient care since this is non-evasive radiotherapy and since lesions can be exacted additional widespread / lasting damage is reduced. Obviously a downside is the cost when compared to a normal radiotherapy machine which costs £1.5m and has wider use.

Vicky, Lucy and I were extremely grateful to Louise for organising our visit and we all come away feeling humbled yet inspired and certainly more educated around the work which takes place in these units which is made easier with charity contributions.

We thought it was important to provide you with an update and an insight into some of the formidable work that the Get A-Head charity assist with so that the next time there is a Get A-Head event you’ll appreciate the difference that your donations are making. Whether you’re buying a samosa or a raffle ticket, packing bags at Sainsbury’s or taking a part in a sponsored event all of your donations are making a difference.

Thank you for taking the time to read this information,

Vicky, Lucy and Michelle