The John Ellis Paediatric Simulation Fund – A legacy

Would you be happy getting on a plane where the stewards had just READ about how to open the emergency door and release the escape slide or would you prefer them to have actually PRACTICED the emergency routine?

This is how Kate Ellis recalls the words of Judith Clegg, Advanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, to equate the importance of medical simulation to a normal life scenario.

Staff nurse in recovery at Royal Cornwall Hospital, Kate is the wife of the late John Ellis, Paedaeatric Consultant at Royal Cornwall Hospital. Being an advocate of the importance of simulation in the education and training of hospital teams, The John Ellis Simulation Fund is one of the legacies of John’s life.

John died in February 2014 after an intense year of treatment which included chemotherapy and stem cell transplant having been diagnosed with a rare T Cell Lymphoma in the March of 2013.
Kate recalls the most difficult of times with clear admiration for her husband and father to their two children. A mix of sadness, pain and loss but comfort at the memories of a husband, father and an outstanding clinician who showed the highest level of care for his patients,

“John was selfless and brave to the end. He maintained his great sense of humour throughout his illness and that really helped to get us through,”

“John was always an educator. For him simulation was a crucial part of skill development and key to improving patient care,” said Kate.

Kate describes how it was challenging in the early days for John to impress the importance and value of simulation to his peers but now the practice occurs on a regular basis across multiple disciplines at the Trust.

“Before John died he arranged for a fund to be created that would facilitate ongoing simulation training. He had a strong sense of team with everyone in the team, regardless of position, being equally important. He was very clear that the fund should be used so anyone could benefit from simulation nurses, doctors and other practitioners. John would be very pleased with how his legacy fund is being used. “

The John Ellis Simulation Fund was first help in Bristol but has since been brought under the umbrella of Royal Cornwall Hospitals Charity with a specific remit to carry on provision for simulation training across the Trust.

Recent beneficiaries of The John Ellis Simulation Fund are Senior Neonatal Nurse, Sarah Tabrett and Paediatrics Consultant, Chris Warren. Through support from the fund, both have attended the Bristol Advanced Simulation Instructors Masterclass led by David Grant, Paediatric Intensive Care Consultant, friend and former colleague of John.

The masterclass draws parallels with aviation methods of simulation where pilots practice for real life emergencies. These methods have been translated into NHS care backed by strong evidence to show that they improve effectiveness and most importantly patient safety.

“Simulation for the Neonatal team allows us to practice procedures which may be high risk and perhaps performed infrequently. The training allows teams to work together, practicing skills in a near to real life situations to become experts at procedures and confident at coping in a range of scenarios,” explains Sarah Tabrett.

“If you are carrying out a procedure on a baby that you know you can perform on a lifelike mannequin you can feel skilled and competent delivering the highest level of safety and comfort for the patient,” Sarah adds.

One of the key elements in the masterclass is the importance of the simulation debrief.

“This is where the real learning happens. If it doesn’t happen properly everyone fails to learn from the process,” explains Chris.

“The debrief is very prescriptive with careful language used to enable useful conversations. There are some very subtle changes to wording used which intend to meaningfully involve all participants.”

Sim training takes place on the Neonatal Unit on a monthly basis, but also widens out to include the Post-Natal ward, Delivery Suite and Birth Centre teams within their education and training programmes.

Chris Warren is thankful for the support given by the John Ellis Simulation Fund,

“The masterclass is a really good course. Patient safety is of course of highest importance and this practice really enables us to make great steps to improve across the Trust.”

Pride in the work enabled through the John Ellis Simulation Fund extends from close family and friends through to John’s former colleagues who clearly held in the highest regard as Nessa Ellis John’s mother, describes,

“John’s untimely death was a great blow to all who knew him, but it has been a source of great consolation and pride to us his family for the way in which you are enabling his memory and legacy to survive.

I would just like to add my deep admiration for and sincere thanks to everyone involved in the training and running of John’s Simulation Fund. Our most sincere thanks to you all for the magnificent dedication and professionalism you have shown and for which we will always be in your debt.”

To make a donation to the John Ellis Simulation Fund or to find out more please contact the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Charity Fundraising Team by email to or by calling 01872 252858.

Added on December 23, 2019, in Charity - RCHT Charity