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Revamped conservatory provides relaxing space at Alnwick oncology unit

Tuesday, 06 December, 2016
Revamped conservatory provides relaxing space at Alnwick oncology unit

A new addition to Alnwick’s oncology unit – thanks to the fund-raising efforts of a Rothbury family – has been officially opened.

The conservatory at the oncology unit at Alnwick Infirmary has been completely transformed to create a relaxing social area for patients and their families to take time out. It has had a new roof, structural work has been carried out and it has been refurbished to include a small kitchen, lounge seating area and outdoor patio.

As well as providing a welcoming area for patients, the new space will enable the unit to offer new services such as complementary therapies and hair loss treatments.

The work has been possible due to Emma and Pamela Sutton who have raised more than £23,000.

After her mother Pamela was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in September 2014, Emma, 27, decided to raise money for the unit to say thank you for the care her mother had received.

Back then, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s unit at Alnwick had recently opened, meaning patients from the local area could receive chemotherapy or supportive treatments closer to home and no longer had to travel out of the area to Wansbeck or North Tyneside general hospitals.

Hoping to raise £1,500, Emma and her family organised a fund-raiser at their local pub – the Newcastle House in Rothbury – and received support from businesses, their councillor Steven Bridgett, who contributed £10,000 on behalf of Northumberland County Council, and was inundated with donations.

Emma said: “We would all like to say a massive thank you to the people of Rothbury, surrounding areas and further afield who donated and enabled Alnwick oncology unit to open a new conservatory.

“The response from the public was overwhelming and something we never thought would take off like it did – we still can’t get over the generosity of the public when we talk about it two years later.

“What was set out as a low-key charity night turned into something much more than that. With over 5,000 raffle tickets sold, support from local businesses and people and our local councillor and council behind us, it just kept getting bigger and more money flooded in.

“The reason behind doing the fund-raiser was to try and give a little back to the staff and hospital that really do go above and beyond to care for people with cancer.

The oncology department at Alnwick was newly-established at that time and we knew it would be in demand for people living in more rural areas.

“It’s hard to put into words how much we appreciate everyone’s support and to see the finished conservatory is fantastic and will really make a difference to patients. The sum raised goes to show the community spirit we have in this rural area and we truly hope the money can help those that need to use the department in Alnwick, now, or in the future.”

Before revamping the conservatory, the trust engaged with patients with their ideas informing the design and look and feel of the conservatory and patio.  

Gillian Thorne, oncology nurse specialist and manager of the unit, said: “We’d like to thank Emma and Pamela for their fantastic efforts in raising such an amazing amount of money and to everyone in the local community who has supported this project.

“Before we opened the unit, we worked hard to provide an environment that not only gives patients the utmost privacy and dignity but is welcoming and doesn’t look like a traditional hospital ward and the conservatory complements this perfectly.

“To bring the conservatory back into use and have a purpose-designed space where patients and their families can sit and relax away from where they receive their treatment is an excellent addition to the unit.

“It’s great, also, to have the outdoor patio area, to enable patients and their families to sit outside when the weather is nice and all in all it will improve their experiences of having their treatment with us.

“Thanks also to the people who gave their views on how the conservatory should look – the end result is superb and the feedback we’ve had so far from people has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The unit at Alnwick is the one of the trust’s five specialist oncology units, with the others at Berwick Infirmary and Wansbeck, Hexham and North Tyneside general hospitals.