Our achievements

Pionnering the UK’s Paediatric ICU Retrieval Service

Many hospitals when presented with a critically ill child do not have the facilities or expertise to give them the best chance of survival, but also cannot risk transporting a child who might die en route.

The PICU at St Mary’s has pioneered a retrieval service for children too sick to be moved from other hospitals without PICU facilities. A team of PICU doctors and nurses travelled via MICA (Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance) to any hospital within a 50-mile radius to stabilise and transport the child safely back to St Mary’s. The MICA was entirely paid for with funds raised by COSMIC.

This pioneering ambulance was then developed into a nationwide service now known as CATS (Children’s Acute Transport Service). This special intensive care transport team covers 50 hospitals in England, as is one of the largest specialist paediatric retrieval services in Europe. We are proud that some of our PICU’s staff are part of the consultant-led medical team who work hard to make sure every critically ill child in transported safely between hospitals. Please see more at site.cats.nhs.uk

Improved the life chances of children with Meningitis

In the 1980’s The UK was in the midst of a Meningitis Epidemic. Over 75% of patients treated on the PICU suffered from this terrible disease.

The introduction of the Paediatric Retrieval Service, lead by St Mary’s Hospital and COSMIC Charity allowed the team to conduct more in-depth research to better understand the pathophysiology of Meningococcal Disease. The research allowed the team to improve methods of identification and methods of treatment which resulted in a huge reduction in mortality rates from this disease. These methods of treatment have since been adopted in National and International guidelines.


Professor Levin’s research team  made a major breakthrough in identifying a substance present in the blood of critically ill children which impairs the function of the heart.

Research groups around the world have attempted to achieve this objective for more than seventy years. What made it possible for the team at St Mary’s to identify this myocardial depressant factor was our ability to link patients with newly available genetic techniques.

In collaboration with world leaders at Stanford University in the United States, the St Mary’s team was able to utilise the technique of gene expression profiling to identify all the genes switched on when the Meningococcal germ enters the bloodstream. It led to them identifying the factor responsible for stopping the heart from working.

This exciting discovery has lead to better treatments for children who experience Sceptic Shock.