Thousands of Southampton families have put in a right Royal effort to help a Daily Echo-backed campaign transform children’s cancer services in the south for generations to come.

Now the Duchess of Cornwall will join in the celebrations when she unveils the £1.7 million extension and refurbishment of a flagship children’s cancer centre providing world-leading care for hundreds of children across the region.

Families will welcome Her Royal Highness to the newly revamped Piam Brown children’s ward at Southampton General Hospital tomorrow.

Her visit marks the successful climax of a fundraising campaign backed by the Daily Echo to transform the centre for the 21st century and provide new look facilities which will save young lives.

As previously reported the scheme was launched as a £1.13 million refurbishment by the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which was later extended to incorporate an extra £550,000 through a fundraising drive led by Southampton Hospital Charity.

The Daily Echo launched the ‘Final Push for Piam Brown’ campaign to help raise the final £150,000 to fund the refit.

Our drive – which coincided with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September – saw a huge response by schools, businesses and families.

The duchess will meet patients, families, nurses and fundraisers as she tours the new-look wards developed following generous donations from the public.

The works include a new bathroom, eight single beds with en suites, a new waiting area, kitchen, toilet and wet room for parents, new consultation and quiet rooms and the refurbishment of corridors and bays.

The extra fundraising funded the development of a new two-bed bay – increasing the number of beds at the centre from 10 to 12.

The centre – one of only 20 specialist children’s cancer units in the UK – sees more than 120 new patients a year from across the south of England and was opened in 1988.

Since then it has become a national and European centre of excellence for neuroblastoma and the development of immunotherapy treatments, with Dr Juliet Gray, a consultant in paediatric oncology, the UK’s representative on the European Neuroblastoma Research Group.

The new beds offer the opportunity for the unit to take part in more clinical studies and for children from outside the region to come to the hospital for novel immunotherapy trials which are not available in other centres.

The Duchess will tour the consulting rooms, clinic, day ward and teenage games room, before attending a reception with staff and patients where she will unveil a plaque to commemorate the opening.

She will also be presented with a framed painting created by Alisia Coles who is the overall winner of a children’s painting competition which was judged by television presenter, gardener and novelist Alan Titchmarsh.

Dr Gray said she is looking forward to welcoming the duchess to the “fantastic” new facility.

She thanked everyone for their efforts and added: “The unit has been in need of updating and expansion for some time to meet the demands of clinical progress and to provide an environment which offers appropriate privacy, dignity and personal space.

“We have now achieved that and I would like to say thank you on behalf of all staff, patients and families.”

Jeneen Thomsen, the hospital charity’s head of major gifts, said: “This shows just how valued it is and we would like to say a very special thanks to everyone who donated during the campaign – without them we wouldn’t have been able to deliver such a comprehensive refurbishment.”

People can make additional donations by contacting 023 8120 8881, emailing at or texting PIAM16 and the amount to 70070.

Mr Titchmarsh said of the winning painting: “It just made me feel bright and happy and optimistic about life, and I love that in paintings.”

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