SOUTHAMPTON General Hospital’s new young adult cardiac ward has received the royal seal of approval as it opens its doors to accept its first patients.

It comes after two years of tireless fundraising by the Daily Echo-backed Wessex Heartbeat High 5 Appeal, which found the £500,000 to make the vital new unit a reality, and months of building work, which started last summer.

Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex officially opened the new ward, which is set to transform the hospital experience for hundreds of young heart patients.

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She is joined by the mayor of Southampton Cllr Sue Blatchford, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Fiona Dalton, chairman John Trewby and chief executive of Southampton cardiac charity Wessex Heartbeat Alison Farrell.

The charity launched the campaign to bring the unit to Southampton General Hospital in 2012 to offer patients better continuity of care and bridging the gap between the children and adult wards.

The special new unit is designed to be a home from home for thousands of 16 to 30-year-olds while they are being treated at the hospital.

Until now cardiac patients over the age of 16 were treated in adult wards where most patients are elderly and possibly seriously ill or dying.

Youngsters treated in these wards have said they felt frightened, lonely and isolated during their stay and it can add stress to both patients and their families.

The new ward will ensure they are treated alongside other people their own age.

It has a communal area, a quiet room and a small kitchen.