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At the double! Steve Hewitt wins big at Annual UK Advancing Healthcare Awards

Steve stands with event host holding awards
30 June 2024

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month, and what better way to celebrate it than to recognise one of our marvellous, award-winning members of staff?

Steve Hewitt, Scoliosis Clinical Specialist Orthotist at Sheffield Children’s, has been awarded the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists (BAPO) Award for inspirational innovators in prosthetics and orthotics at the Annual UK Advancing Healthcare Awards. Not only did Steve win in his own category, but even came out as the overall winner for his work in scoliosis management in patients with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA)!

Steve was thrilled to win these awards and be recognised for his ground-breaking work amongst his peers. Steve said: “It was a great privilege and an honour to be nominated and to win these awards. To be nominated alongside the exceptional work of the other entrants in their respective categories was a career highlight. I’m also incredibly proud to be the first orthotist to have ever won this award, and hope that we can continue to push the boundaries of treatment further so that we can support patients with SMA and their families on the international stage going forward.”

As an orthotist, Steve often finds himself designing, creating, and prescribing braces for patients with scoliosis, curvature of the spine, which can develop as a side effect of SMA. SMA is an inherited disease that affects nerves and muscles, causing muscles to become increasingly weak. SMA can affect the child’s ability to crawl, walk, sit up, and control head movements. Severe SMA can damage the muscles used for breathing and swallowing.  Whilst it is degenerative, in that it gets worse over time, there are a number of treatments that can make the condition more manageable for patients. These include specialised exercises, equipment, and braces to manage scoliosis.

A Blue CMP-lite brace with a rocket design

An example of a CMP-lite brace.

To deliver safe, kind, and outstanding care for our patients with SMA, Steve collaborated with the Neuromuscular team at Sheffield Children’s, who have recently become a Muscular Dystrophy UK Centre of Clinical Excellence with Research, and private sector partner The SpineCorporation Ltd. Steve said: “Seven years ago, Sheffield Children’s introduced a new drug treatment for patients with SMA which has since improved life expectancy for that condition. However, as a result, we saw that scoliosis was becoming more common in these patients. The Neuromuscular team were proactive in identifying a need to manage this and, alongside support from the Respiratory and Physiotherapy services here at Sheffield Children’s, we have been able to develop and create our new Corrective Movement Principle (CMP-lite) brace.”

Unlike traditional braces which used compression to straighten the spine, the CMP-lite brace uses a form of hyper-corrective postural bracing which is designed using computer-aided design (CAD) software to make sure that each brace is less restrictive and tailored to a specific child or young person. Steve said: “The fundamental difference is the mechanism of correction. In the past, braces in the style of the Boston brace, which worked based on being a total contact shell, put a lot of pressure on children and young people who wore them. It doesn’t promote natural correction, and so it can be more uncomfortable for patients.”

“With our new hyper-corrective CMP-lite brace, we take a postural correction approach. Instead of the pressure from a total contact shell, we use natural movement to achieve more correction. It is more comfortable too. Using less plastic trim, we have made the brace lighter to make sure that we avoid over-supporting the patient, encouraging them to control their posture themselves as much as possible.”

Steve and the team are continuously gathering evidence to make sure that their new form of bracing is effective and efficient for children and young people. Steve said: “We have received a lot of requests from trusts across the country to discuss best practice, and from patients who are looking for high quality healthcare. In terms of compliance, comfort and effectiveness, our newer style of brace has shown exciting signs of success. A clinical research fellow within the Neuromuscular team is collecting our data which was presented at the national SMA conference in March. This has led on to a collaboration between four different centres around the UK, from which we’re now gathering more data about general bracing effectiveness so that we can make comparisons with this new bracing technique.”

Looking towards the future, Steve and the team are very excited to continue supporting our children and young people as they continue to grow and make sure that their new brace continues to develop to meet the developing needs of patients. Steve said: “There’s a lot more to come! Our main priority is getting the evidence published. We’re also seeing patients who are approaching adolescence and eventually moving into adult services. We will work hard to make sure that we have a strong service set up to accommodate the transition to adult services too.”

Way to go, Steve! We can’t wait to see how this new form of bracing continues to develop in future. To learn more about the wonderful staff members involved in scoliosis management, please visit our website.

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