Call for final push to help transform children's cancer centre in Southampton

Waiting area

Staff and patients at Southampton’s university hospitals are urging members of the public to support a final push to help transform its pioneering children’s cancer centre.

Work on the £1.7 million scheme to renovate and expand the Piam Brown unit at Southampton Children’s Hospital – one of only 20 specialist paediatric oncology units in the UK – began in April.

Initially launched as a £1.13 million refurbishment solely by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, it was later extended to incorporate an additional £550,000 achieved through a fundraising drive led by Southampton Hospital Charity.

As a result, in addition to the original planned works to provide a new bathroom, eight single beds with en-suites, a new toilet and wet room for parents and refurbishment of corridors and bays, the project will now see the creation of a new two-bed bay as well.

The charitable funds will also cover a new disabled toilet, storage facilities, consultation and quiet rooms, waiting area and a kitchen for parents – with all designs for the new unit developed in collaboration with current and former patients and their families.

Although the majority of the fundraising target has been met, a further £150,000 is needed to complete the appeal, with the final push launched during September to coincide with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

The unit, which sees more than 120 new patients a year from across the south of England, was opened in 1988 after Mrs Mahrou Brown joined forces with the Wessex Cancer Trust to raise funds to open a specialist unit named after her son, Piam.

In that time, it has become a national and European centre of excellence for neuroblastoma and the development of immunotherapy treatments, with Dr Juliet Gray, a consultant in paediatric oncology, the UK’s representative on the European Neuroblastoma Research Group.

The additional beds provided by the refurbishment offer the potential for the unit to take part in more clinical studies and the opportunity for children from outside the region to come to the hospital for novel immunotherapy trials which are not available in other centres.

“Despite the high quality of clinical care and research expertise we offer, providing a better environment for our young patients and their families is essential to the future of our unit,” said Leigh Shaw, senior sister for paediatric oncology.

“The unit has been in need of updating for some time, particularly around the need for extra patient beds and more space to accommodate parents, as well as enhanced facilities for those who are with us for long periods.

“We know that changing the environment does not take away the stress of a child being diagnosed with cancer, but we do know parent facilities and the provision of more single rooms just makes life a little more bearable for families at a very difficult time.

“When finished, this project will ensure we can give everyone a greater degree of privacy, dignity and personal space and provide a unit which offers both quality in care and its facilities.”

Onnalee Cubitt, whose 11-year-old daughter Summer was diagnosed with a rare blood-related cancer called T Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma in 2014, said: “The doctors and nurses on Piam Brown have been outstanding in every way, we cannot fault their professionalism, care and compassion.

“They walked the extra mile when they needed to and made the journey better but, unfortunately, the same could not be said of the physical space.”

She added: “This exciting refurbishment will transform the experience for future children with cancer and their families and make their difficult journey significantly more manageable, so it is a great cause and I really hope people get behind the project in its final stages.”

Jeneen Thomsen, head of major gifts at Southampton Hospital Charity, said: “The Piam Brown appeal has seen donors pledge and raise £400,000 in under six months and that shows just how valued the unit is.

“We would like to thank everyone who has donated so far and we look forward to working with our supporters and the community to raise the remaining £150,000 we need to complete the campaign.”

Anyone interested in making a donation can contact Southampton Hospital Charity on 023 8120 8881, by email at or text PIAM16 and the amount to 70070.

For more information on the appeal and the case for support, visit

Posted on Tuesday 6 September 2016