Parents of sick children plea for ‘vitally important’ hospital improvements
- Credit: East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust
But an appeal to raise funds to give these brave children and the medical staff who support them the modern hospital they need is today a step closer to changing all that.
Ipswich Hospital launched its Children’s Appeal in February 2018 after realising its “drab and dated” young people’s department is not fit for the 21st century.
“We offer high standards of care and now we need a high quality environment to match,” said consultant paediatrician Dr Lauren Filby.
A brochure produced by the hospital for the appeal added: “These facilities were built in the 1960s and refurbished in the mid-80s, but have remained largely unchanged since - despite large rises in demand for our services.”
As a result, staff say the “layout of the ward is making it increasingly difficult for our staff to continue delivering high quality, compassionate care”.
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The hospital’s vision is to totally revamp the department by more than doubling the six clinic rooms, while also adding specially dedicated spaces for diabetes, cystic fibrosis and physiotherapy - as well as multiple play areas to make it a more welcoming environment for children.
The planned improvements would also include increasing the total number of beds from 24 to 26, while also creating dedicated spaces for teenagers and more space in bays for specialist equipment.
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But the hospital needs £2.5million to do that at a time when NHS funding is at its most stretched - so needs to find the money required through fundraising.
It is a tall order - but the amazing response to the first year of the appeal has showed how the community is fully backing the plans, with £211,589 raised by its official first birthday earlier this month.
Mandy Jordan, head of charity at the hospital, said: “It’s hard to believe it was a year ago Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity launched the Children’s Appeal. So much has happened.
“The children’s department staff are so committed to making this happen. They have run, baked and dressed up personally contributing to the fundraising total which is fantastic.
“The public have been very supportive too, with last year’s summer fair being a personal highlight of mine.
“More recently we were very humbled to have received a legacy of nearly £150,000 from Eric Vanlint’s estate. Eric was a local poet and advocate for children’s charities.
“Looking ahead, the charity has two runners in the London Marathon fundraising for the appeal this April and we are charity of the year at Jimmy’s Farm for a second year running, which is very exciting.
“There is no denying we’ve made a great start, but to help reach the £2.5m target there’s still a long way to go.
“Our staff are often praised for their professionalism and dedication but the facilities are simply out of date.
“If you combine this with the knowledge that the number of children we treat year on year is steadily growing, you can see why this appeal is so important.”
In 2016/17, there were a total of 37,512 hospital visits to the department.
Debbie Streatfield, whose daughter Ava has been in and out of Ipswich Hospital for much of her life with cerebral palsy, said the changes “would make all the difference in the world to us”.
She added: “The staff provide great care and do the best with the space they’ve got, but we are well aware that the layout can cause them difficulties.
“The improvements will make the ward much more practical and accessible, as well as more welcoming and child-friendly.”
May Mackay-Morris, whose five-year-old son Forrest regularly visits the hospital for treatment for his cystic fibrosis, added: “The staff have been brilliant and really supportive, and the care he receives for his cystic fibrosis is absolutely excellent.
“But the environment doesn’t come up to the same standards and really needs enhancing.
“Staying physically active is really important for people with cystic fibrosis, but it is difficult for Forrest to get the exercise he needs when he is admitted as the garden isn’t really appropriate for him.
“We are really keen to see it upgraded and Forrest has even told us he wants to sell his toys to help pay for it, as he’s desperate to be able to play in that outside space.”
Dr Filby added: “Parents often comment that the department looks old and tired, while many say it is difficult for them to find their way around.
“As staff, we are able to work around the physical constraints of the unit. But for our patients and their parents, this project is vitally important.”
For more information about the Children’s Appeal and how to donate, visit the appeal’s website.