Children's unit set to open

BRIGHT, spacious, colourful and modern - the district s youngest patients will soon be treated in a new environment, fitting for the 21st century. The purpose-built Children s Unit at Huntingdon s Hinchingbrooke Hospital is now almost complete and set to

BRIGHT, spacious, colourful and modern - the district's youngest patients will soon be treated in a new environment, fitting for the 21st century.

The purpose-built Children's Unit at Huntingdon's Hinchingbrooke Hospital is now almost complete and set to provide the most modern facility in the county for children's care.

The unit will enable staff to continue saving lives, but even more efficiently with increased space, according to bosses at Cambridgeshire's Primary Care Trust. They say the new £7.5million unit is what both adults and children should expect from their NHS.

On Monday, The Hunts Post was given a preview tour of the Children's Unit, which is likely to open in October and could treat more than 10,000 patients each year in its inpatient and outpatient departments.

Stepping inside the foyer of the modern, two-storey building, there are an array of multi-coloured furnishings, small chairs and tables for little ones, and doors leading straight outside to a secure play area, complete with slide and giant toadstools.

The ground floor is the new outpatients department of the unit - a separate, self-contained area for children and their families who need to attend hospital clinics for conditions ranging from asthma to diabetes.

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The separation of the in and outpatients departments will make a "vast difference", streamlining services in the unit, according to ward sister Chris Luckham.

"At the moment in Holly ward, we are busy with both in and outpatients, with children spilling over into other areas and little ones running around outside clinics," she said.

The new building provides eight consulting rooms for outpatients, along with an ultra-sound room and larger clinic rooms. A specially designed sensory room - fitted with bright lights, mirrors and plenty of gadgets to provide stimulation - is also there, along with a fully-fitted bedroom and ensuite where parents can stay overnight in their own private room, if necessary.

All age groups have been considered in the design of the unit - after all, children themselves played a large part in offering ideas and suggestions for what they wanted to see in their treatment centre.

Teenagers requested their own space - separate to the little ones - and they now have a room where they can use computers, watch television or play games machines.

At the other end of the scale, new parents have a feeding room, separate to the waiting area, and younger children can play on mats within a circular seating area, where adults can keep an eye on them.

Upstairs is the inpatients area. A climb up the bright staircase, alongside the multi-coloured stain glass windows, reveals a set of double doors leading to the four-bed day case area, two single rooms and nurses' station, which in themselves are entirely separate from the other inpatients ward.

The main inpatients area consists of twenty four bays, each with a fold-away bed alongside for visitors, in four-bed units as well as one high dependency room.

Space is the major theme of this new building, but it is also the attention to detail which transforms the building from a merely a modern treatment centre to one which has its patients at heart.

Small touches make all the difference such as the road markings - complete with yellow lines - on the floors for the toy jeep to obey while taking children to theatre, moon and sunshine signs to designate the in/out patient areas and the smiley face of Holly, the logo designed by one of the patients, to greet visitors through the front doors.

The unit has been 20 years in the pipeline, according to Dr Jill Challener, consultant paediatrician at Hinchingbrooke and medical director at Cambs PCT, but the first sod was actually turned in April 2006.

Funded principally by the Strategic Health Authority, it is, however, the hospital's Dreamdrops charitable appeal, raising £140,000 to date, which has enabled the provision of home comforts, such as quality beds for parents to sleep next to their children.

Staff and children alike from the current Holly ward are already looking forward to moving into the new building later this year.

"We now have a facility that is modern, spacious, child-friendly, which will enable us to offer really great healthcare for every child that needs it," said PCT chief operations officer, Matthew Winn. "The new unit is also an environment where the children will recover and get home as quickly as possible.