Duchess of Cornwall to open refurbished children's cancer unit

The Duchess of Cornwall will visit Southampton's teaching hospitals on Thursday (24 November) to open the newly refurbished children's cancer unit Piam Brown.

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

Her Royal Highness will meet patients, fundraisers, nurses and families before touring the unit and taking in the consulting rooms, clinic, day ward and teenage games room. The Duchess will then attend a reception with staff and patients where she will unveil a plaque to commemorate the opening.

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 planned works, which included a new bathroom, eight single beds with en-suites, a new toilet and wet room for parents and refurbishment of corridors and bays, the unit now has a new two-bed bay as well.

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

The unit, which sees more than 120 new patients a year from across the south of England, was opened in 1988. Since then 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.

“We really look forward to welcoming the Duchess here to meet our patients, families and staff and tour this fantastic new facility,” said Dr Gray.

“The unit has been in need of updating and expansion for some time to meet the demands of clinical progress and to provide an environment which offers appropriate privacy, dignity and personal space.”

She added: “We have now achieved that and, on behalf of all staff, patients and families, I would like to say thank you to the trust, the hospital charity and all of the individual fundraisers and groups who made it possible.”

Onnalee and Hugo Cubitt, whose 11-year-old daughter Summer was diagnosed with a rare blood-related cancer called T Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma in 2014, helped lead the fundraising campaign alongside the charity.

“We have always maintained that no-one could fault the skills, quality, care and compassion of the staff on Piam Brown,” said Onnalee.

"However, the physical space and facilities in the unit presented challenges to families and staff alike, so we are so very pleased to see this transition and the unveiling of a unit that will transform the experience for future children and their families."

Jeneen Thomsen, head of major gifts at Southampton Hospital Charity, said: “To date the Piam Brown refurbishment appeal has seen donors pledge and raise an incredible amount of money in just over six months.

“This shows just how valued it is and we would like to say a very special thanks to everyone who donated during the campaign – without them we wouldn't have been able to deliver such a comprehensive refurbishment.

“However, we still have some remaining funds to raise so please do get in touch if you would like to support this vital and much-loved unit.”

Anyone interested in making a donation can contact Southampton Hospital Charity on 023 8120 8881, by email at charity@uhs.nhs.uk or text PIAM16 and the amount to 70070. For more information and background on the Piam Brown appeal, visit www.southamptonhospitalcharity.org.

Posted on Monday 21 November 2016