Charity units are in demand

Morpeth Lion Stuart Lewis presenting a cheque to Caroline O'Doherty of The Sick Children's Trust.
Morpeth Lion Stuart Lewis presenting a cheque to Caroline O'Doherty of The Sick Children's Trust.

Morpeth Lions Club

CAROLINE O’Doherty from the Sick Children’s Trust was the speaker at the October Lions meeting.

The Sick Children’s Trust is a charity providing residential family accommodation at children’s hospitals in the UK.

It has eight houses at present, with a ninth about to open and a tenth planned for the Freeman Hospital, to open next autumn.

There is already a house at the RVI, and the new house is specifically to cater for families of children being treated at the Freeman Heart Unit.

Morpeth Lions Club had previously heard Ms O’Doherty give a talk in 2011 and she came to give an update on progress with the house planned for the Freeman Hospital.

There has been a delay in building due to the uncertainty following the Safe and Sustainable Review into the Children’s Heart Units and the appeal by Leeds Unit, which went to the High Court.

The review is still ongoing, but the decision has been taken to proceed with the new house at the Freeman Hospital.

Ms O’Doherty explained that the new unit will have 20 en-suite bedrooms, as well as lounges, kitchen, laundry and play areas.

There will be a transplant flat to help children and families prepare for life back at home after the operation.

The Heart Unit primarily serves the North East, but also Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The average stay is expected to be two weeks, but some stays could be several months.

The capital cost is around £2million, with an annual running cost of £80,000, which equates to £10 per room each day.

There are grants, donations and pledges of £1.9million, with a further £100,000 to find towards the building costs. There is no funding from the NHS.

The concept is to allow families to stay near the children during their time in hospital so as to keep the family together and cut down on the stress and travel associated with having a child in hospital. The existing house at the RVI has 23 rooms and these are always full, with a waiting list.

Morpeth Lions Club had already contributed £250 to the building fund in 2011 and was again so impressed with the proposal that it decided to donate a further £200 to the fund.

Vice President Stuart Lewis proposed the vote of thanks to Ms O’Doherty and presented her with the cheque for £200.