Target in sight to give cystic fibrosis sufferers ‘world class’ facilities

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IT is nearly a year since The Star launched a campaign with the Sheffield Hospitals Charitable Trust to raise £1m to make a new unit for cystic fibrosis patients truly ‘world class’. Now the end target is in sight and the department is up and running, Health Writer Sarah Dunn got a sneak preview ahead of the official opening.

THE mouth-watering smell of frying bacon drifts along the corridor of brightly coloured doors.

There’s a gel handwash mounted on the wall as you walk in - but this is one of the only clues that you are about to enter a hospital ward.

The classic medicinal scent which normally greets you has been replaced by the tempting smell of the mid-morning snacks which are doing the rounds on the new dedicated Cystic Fibrosis Unit at the Northern General Hospital.

And it’s not just bacon sarnies that are on offer - cheese and ham toasties and fish and chip butties are some of the other favoured requests which patients on the ward can make thanks to a unique housekeeping service.

It might seem an odd facility to have on a hospital ward, but CF patients struggle to feel full and to put on and maintain weight, so these calorific treats can actually be an important part of their recovery.

This is just one small element in a host of ‘extra touches’ that the 12-bed unit offers the respiratory disease patients who often find themselves in hospital for long stretches at a time recovering from infections.

They are being paid for by The Star-backed Cystic Fibrosis Appeal, which, since last February, has been raising cash to make the new ward truly ‘world class’. With the total now standing at £850,000, the end is most definitely in sight and the unit is up and running - although still not completely finished.

Evidence of the hard-raised cash is everywhere - from the nurses’ reception desk lit up in neon pink to the calming visitors’ room complete with comfy chairs and soothing lighting.

But it is in the bedrooms that the effects are so impressive.

The idea from Race Cottam Architects was to create a boutique-hotel style environment, with each room having its own theme - whether that be a Japanese tea garden, lush green rainforest, New York loft or even the Peak District’s own Longshaw Estate.

Medical equipment is hidden away discretely in cupboards and each room benefits from its own fridge, computer, wall-mounted flat-screen TV and laptop and internet access. Personal gym equipment is due to be added as one of the final stages of the project, once the target has been reached.

The unit, on the third floor of the Biomedical Research block, also benefits from its own pharmacy - a key facility since the main reason patients are admitted is to be given IV antibiotics - a separate gym which will eventually include more specialist equipment to support physiotherapy, and a meeting room where all the different members of the medical team involved in patients’ care can discuss treatments and progress each week.

There’s no doubt the place is proving a hit with the patients.

Michael Blackett, from Elsecar, near Barnsley, said: “It’s fantastic - absolutely brilliant.

“It’s such a massive difference compared to where we used to have to stay before. You don’t feel as hemmed in, there’s plenty of space to relax in and for family to come and visit.”

The 24-year-old, who is currently staying in the rainforest themed room, added: “On the old ward I would be desperate to get home, but I’m happier to stay here now and get the treatment I need.”

Jason Stanley, from Tinsley, agreed - and added how great it was to have a dedicated unit just for CF patients.

The 37-year-old said: “The rooms are amazing - there is nothing that could have been done more to make us more comfortable.”

Dr Frank Edenborough, consultant in cystic fibrosis, said he too was thrilled with the unit.

He said: “We have got something here which is totally workable in terms of treating our patients, but which still looks really nice.

“We have had visitors who say it is the best hospital accommodation they have seen, and others who have said it is the best-looking CF unit in the country.

“The whole culture here is very laid back and designed to promote normal life with people coming and going. It’s not about getting in the way of the treatment they need, it’s about making it more bearable for them when they need to be here.

“It’s really nice having our own space where we can start tailoring treatment to the benefit of patients. And it’s also about giving CF an identity and making this ward one of the places the hospital is most proud of.”

Emma Dickens, head of fundraising at the Sheffield Hospitals Charitable Trust, encouraged people to get behind the final phase of fundraising to help them achieve their £1m target.

She said: “It’s fantastic to see the unit looking so close to completion.

“Everybody - staff, Star readers and the general public - have been hugely supportive in the whole fundraising effort. We have only got another £150,000 to go and we are relying on everyone to pull together.”

n Visit about the appeal. Email or call 0114 271 1351 to find out how you can help.