A Birmingham Children’s Hospital plastic surgeon has been honoured with an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours thanks to her pioneering work in caring for children and young people with hand and upper limb abnormalities.
Miss Ruth Lester has received the prestigious award in recognition of her commitment to developing a specialist service, which has helped thousands of patients and families since it was first set up in the early 1990s – starting at the former Sandwell District General Hospital and the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital.
Since arriving at the Children’s Hospital in 2000 Miss Lester continued to develop and grow the unique multi-disciplinary service, which combines the expertise of orthopaedic surgeons, neurologists, radiologists, geneticists, therapists, psychologists and many others in one place, at one time, to improve the all-round care these young patients receive.
Not only that, but the introduction of holistic care in the form of dedicated camps for those with congenital hand conditions and coffee mornings for parents have greatly improved the mental health and wellbeing of these children, young people and families.
Miss Lester and her team recognised the importance of bringing together families whose lives are affected by these rare conditions, understanding the need for care beyond their physical disability or condition. By doing so, self-esteem is greatly improved as well as emotional and psychological health.
From seeing 200 children at the turn of the millennium, today the team cares for and supports more than 600 young people each year.
Her expertise and commitment have not only improved the lives of children in the UK but across the globe too. Internationally respected, she has also developed guidelines and care models which have been used as a framework for worldwide guidelines. She’s also led the way in setting up national data collection initiatives to help identify the surgical outcomes of hand injuries throughout the UK, aiming to raise these standards.
Beyond her clinical work, Miss Lester has established a dedicated fund under the umbrella of Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity called the Children’s Hands and Arms (CHARMS) charity. This raises funds to support special training for staff, continue holistic approaches to care and hopes to create a dedicated centre within the hospital.
She has also volunteered in Zanzibar, improving the regulations around circumcision and urological conditions in young boys. She has initiated technical improvements in the technique of circumcision and complex genital repairs and has begun the process of formal registration for those carrying out these procedures.
Mother of three, Miss Ruth Lester OBE, said:
“When I found out I was completely astonished. I couldn’t believe I’d been chosen for such an honour.
“I feel completely privileged to have been lucky enough to have had such a wonderful career and to have been part of an incredible team, from my fellow surgeons to porters, cleaners, theatre staff and many more.
“Much of the success of the Hand and Upper Limb Service has been down to phenomenal team work, for which I am incredibly grateful. I feel this honour truly reflects the work of my colleagues, especially those at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
“I’ve spent years simply doing a job I thoroughly enjoy, and the true superheroes are the inspirational children and young people I have cared for. I would like to say a big thank you to them, their families, my colleagues and my own loved ones.”
Despite being in retirement, Ruth continues to work closely with the Hand and Upper Limb team non-clinically and is a Trustee of the Birmingham Women’s and Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charities.
She is also involved in a network of clinicians aiming to improve the diagnosis and early treatment of arthrogryposis, a disabling congenital condition which often results in multiple limb deformities.
Sarah-Jane Marsh, Chief Executive of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“We’re so proud that the amazing Ruth has been recognised with this honour, as her constant dedication to improving the care and support for the children and families she looks after is an inspiration to us all.
“Not only is she an expert in her field, but she is a wonderful and humble human being who has put young people at the heart of everything she’s done. From the holistic care she has pioneered, to her passion for fundraising, it’s no surprise that we continue to hear from patients whose lives have been transformed by Ruth and her team, long after her retirement.”