Football star Alan Shearer marked the beginning of constriction of a new £1.9m accommodation block for families of sick children.
The former Newcastle United player yesterday cut the turf on the site at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.
The Sick Children’s Trust and Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) are working together to fund the ‘home-from-home’ to provide free, high-quality accommodation for families of children at the Freeman Hospital.
Shearer said: “You can hear the buzz of excitement from doctors, nurses and surgeons about the accommodation.
“They all realise that it is stressful for the parents knowing that their kid’s going through a very serious operation. To have a facility like this can make it a little bit easier on them, as it will be a home from home, and they will not have to travel.
“Everyone has been so generous in raising a lot of the funds and to see the first spade go in and to see it start is great.”
The house will be positioned in the grounds of the Freeman Hospital. It will include 18 en-suite bedrooms and a transplant flat to help patients prepare to go home. There will also be large communal living areas, including kitchen, dining rooms, lounges, playrooms and laundry facility. Each private family bedroom will also have a direct telephone line to the ward that their child is on.
One couple who know how important the accommodation block will be is Gary Scott, 46, director of finance, and Laura Wells, 36, a teacher, who have travelled from Cheshire so that their son, Thomas, can receive treatment at the Freeman’s children’s heart unit. The two-month-old had a heart attack when he was just 10 day’s old and is on the Berlin Heart waiting for a heart transplant.
Parents Gary and Laura are currently staying at The Sick Children’s Trust’s Crawford House at the Royal Victoria Infirmary and are aware of how essential it is to be near their baby’s bedside.
Mum-of-two Laura, who also has daughter Maisie, 22-months-old, said: “Having accommodation on site is very important as it will take some of the stress off the family.
“Staying at Crawford House has meant we’ve been provided with a safe place to stay and have had emotional support too.
“The new accommodation block will be a fantastic base at the hospital for families to be near their child so that they are able to easily get to the ward.”
It is expected that the accommodation will be up and running by early summer next year and, once opened, it will be run by The Sick Children’s Trust. CHUF is donating £1m towards the project and North East businessman Graham Wylie is working with the charity and The Sick Children’s Trust to raise the additional £900,000.
Dr Richard Kirk, consultant paediatric cardiologist at the Freeman, said: “It is really smashing to see the ground breaking of the facility.
“It is going to make a huge difference to families at a stressful time in their lives.”
The building has been designed by award-winning Newcastle architects, Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall (JDDK) Ltd and will be built by Sunderland-based Brims Construction.