Today, the Countess of Wessex will officially open a new cardiac unit, which is specifically intended for children and young adults, at the Southampton General Hospital.
Upon her arrival, The Countess will be greeted by the Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Sue Blatchford; University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust chief executive, Fiona Dalton; and chairman John Trewby.
The Countess of Wessex will also meet with young patients, clinical staff, and charity trustees, before unveiling a plaque to commemorate her visit in the education centre.
Alison Farrell, the chief executive of Wessex Heartbeat, spoke about the visit, saying: “The HIGH 5 Appeal has enabled us to achieve something truly unique in children’s and adult cardiac care in the UK and we are delighted HRH – our patron – will be with us to officially mark this very special moment.”
The HIGH 5 Appeal ward is specially designed for young people with lifelong heart conditions. Previously, all cardiac patients were treated in the same wards, where a majority of patients were elderly or seriously ill, and on the brink of death. This would no doubt have had an adverse impact on youngsters, who have said in the past that they feel frightened and lonely in these wards.
The new ward will allow for younger heart patients to be treated along with others their own age. It features a communal area, a quiet room, and even a small kitchen. In the years to come, the HIGH 5 Appeal ward will serve as a second home for thousands of young adults between the age of 16 and 30.
Around 20,000 patients with heart defects are treated at Southampton General Hospital each year, including about 1,000 babies who were born with congenital heart conditions. The cardiac unit is designed to improve the quality of life for patients, by providing them with services and facilities to fulfill their physical, psychological and emotional needs.
Half a million pounds were raised to build the ward by the charity Wessex Heartbeat, through their HIGH 5 Appeal. Since its establishment in 1992, Wessex Heartbeat has managed to raise over £13 million pounds to make improvements in cardiac research and care. In 2012, the charity launched the HIGH 5 Appeal to bring a young adults’ cardiac unit to Southampton General Hospital, to make the distinction between the wards for children and adults.
The Countess of Wessex is the Royal Patron of the charity.