Professor Heather Elphick
Dr Nicki Barker

Sheffield Children’s Hospital


Respiratory disease in children is common, ranging from chronic lung disease of prematurity to asthma in older children. 1.1 million children in the UK receive treatment for asthma and over 1,000 deaths result from asthma each year.

Although there has been an increase in technology developments to support childhood asthma, there is still a high disease burden and several areas of unmet clinical need have been identified that would benefit from innovative technology development.


Sleep disorders are also common in children and young people. Narcolepsy is one example of a sleep disorder, which is caused by a deficiency in hypocretin, a peptide responsible for sleep/wake regulation. The condition presents as excessive daytime sleepiness and episodes of muscle weakness in association with heightened emotions (cataplexy). In childhood, this is a debilitating condition that can impact on social and educational development and mental health.

Many children and young people also have sleep difficulties due to poor sleep hygiene. Around 30% of children and young people in mainstream school experience difficulty either going to sleep or staying asleep. This figure increases to over 80% in children and young people with a neurodisability. Lack of adequate sleep can lead to multiple detrimental health effects, including physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.


Many children and young people with long-term respiratory conditions require long-term ventilation.

Recent clinical advances in neonatal and paediatric intensive care have increased the incidence of survival of children and young people with life-threatening or life-limiting conditions. Over the same period, technological advances have produced a range of portable, easy to maintain, reliable, and efficient mechanical ventilators.

Children and young people who have long-term breathing difficulties needing temporary or permanent ventilator assistance have an increased potential for survival. Thus, management of these patients often requires prolonged periods of admission onto specialist paediatric units, most commonly paediatric intensive care units (PICU).

This has led to a significant reduction in urgent PICU beds and the diversion of patients requiring PICU over to distant units. Novel approaches are required to manage patients on long-term ventilation at home, reducing the need for hospitalisation.


The Respiratory, Sleep, and Ventilation theme has the following focus:

  • Improve long-term monitoring and diagnostic techniques for children and young people with chronic respiratory disorders and sleep conditions.
  • Develop self-care and supportive aids for children and young people with chronic respiratory disorders and sleep conditions.
  • Improve the efficiency of pathways to treatments.
  • Improve ventilation assessment to support the early identification of clinical deterioration.
  • Detect infection and inflammation more accurately in children and young people requiring long-term ventilation.
  • Develop new methods and technologies to enable young people to better manage their respiratory conditions from home.

“Respiratory disease in children and young people is common. Sleep is fundamental to health and wellbeing. Children and young people rely on technology to aid diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment for both respiratory and sleep disorders. Innovative technological solutions are particularly important for self-care and home monitoring.”




Professor Heather Elphick is a Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

Heather is lead consultant for the respiratory service at Sheffield Children’s. Heather’s main clinical interests are sleep medicine and long-term ventilation.


Dr Nicki Barker is a Principal Clinical Researcher and Advanced Physiotherapist at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

Nicki is an expert in Dysfunctional Breathing (DB), with clinical and research interests including the efficacy of physiotherapy for children with DB and the development of medical technology to aid diagnosis and treatment of respiratory conditions.