NAOMI House children’s hospice has reopened after a 19-month refurbishment costing £4 million, which staff and families have welcomed.

Naomi House opened in 1997, near Winchester in Hampshire, providing a home from home care environment for children from seven counties including Wiltshire.

But as family needs changed over the years the hospice needed updating, so the £4m refurbishment project began in February 2014.

Now the hospice can accommodate the latest equipment and to create new space in which to care for the region’s life-limited and life-threatened children.

During this time, children who ordinarily receive care at Naomi House stayed in specially converted rooms at the charity’s sister hospice, Jacksplace, next door.

Alastair Stewart OBE, the charity’s appeal patron, was assisted by three-year-old Mikey Strachan to cut the ribbon and unveil the hospice to more than 100 invited guests.

Mikey’s mother, Chevonne Newlands, said: “The problem is going to be to get Mikey to come home, when he comes for his visits. He singled out the sensory room, that’s where he’ll be spending a lot of his time when he comes to stay.

"We were very lucky to be able to cut the ribbon today - It’s just going to be brilliant for our family to come here, it will be like going on holiday! We’ll finally get to relax.”

Mr Stewart, an ITN broadcaster, said: “We make precious time priceless. We make difficult times bearable. And heartbreak, well, we’re there. Loving, flexible and sometimes just silent. But we are there.

"Towards the end of September these lovely families and many others like them, will stride in and be here and make use of this place.

"In the periods between now and then, our magnificent, brilliant, fearless staff will be learning the ropes.

“So I suppose the bottom line is to say 'thank you'. Thank you for what you’ve all done. Thank you for allowing a magnificent crew to do a magnificent job for a magnificent group of our fellow human beings who are a little younger than we are and may not be here for as long as we are.”

The refurbishment means that local children can now receive respite, emergency, end of life and bereavement care in one of the world’s most modern and technically advanced hospice facilities.

There are hoists throughout the hospice building, piped oxygen and suction in every room, a new heating system that can maintain precise temperatures in each room of the hospice, and an array of sensory equipment for children with special needs, the charity will be able to accommodate the most medically complex children from across the seven counties it serves including Wiltshire.

Another family to see the new hospice for the first time was the Faircloughs, from Sturminster Newton, Dorset.

Neil and Suzanne Fairclough’s daughter, Hattie, 14, smiled as she made her way into the charity’s new play room.

Suzanne said: It is absolutely fantastic, - it’s so lovely to come and see the building today. It’s so airy and open, as well as big and spacious.

"It’s so bright, and it’s got a really happy feel. We can’t wait for Hattie to test drive it.”

Sally Evans, 10, from Salisbury, stays at Naomi House for respite care and loves the new layout of the building.

“I love the fact that all the rooms aren’t just clumped together, and it’s not just bedrooms, there’s the music room too," she said.

"It’s a lot more open, so you can actually move your arms and legs. If you move backwards you won’t hit a big pile of stuff.”

Keith Wilson, marketing manager for Naomi House and Jacksplace, said: “The new hospice looks nothing short of incredible.

"While we may have modernised the entire building, and equipped it with a vast array of the latest technology, it doesn’t feel cold or clinical in any way.

"The design has preserved that welcoming and homely feel that Naomi House has always benefitted from and I can’t wait to see the first children enjoying the hospice and completing the final piece of the jigsaw.”

Mark Smith, chief executive, said: “The staff and volunteer team at Naomi House pride ourselves on delivering high quality, compassionate, individualised care to families from across the region and have done so for nearly 20 years.

"The children we serve are now living longer due to increased medical knowledge and technology, and so the complexity of care now required needs a state of the art building and highly trained staff to meet these demands.

"Naomi House is now the most advanced children’s hospice in the region, providing a fully comprehensive hospice service to families, under the guidance of a specially trained Paediatric Palliative Care Consultant and medical team.”

The new hospice includes larger bedrooms, additional bathrooms, a new ‘Butterfly’ bereavement suite, spiritual spaces, therapy rooms, sensory room, wheelchair charging points and luxurious accommodation for families.

The garden has also undergone a major transformation and contractors are busy creating a number of distinct spaces within the gardens, including two quiet spaces for peaceful contemplation, a roof garden that is accessed through the hospice’s new spiritual space and a children’s garden that features an enormous wheelchair accessible galleon, water features and play equipment.

Mr Wilson said: “Our unveiling marks the point at which our care teams can gain full access to the new hospice and start moving items like beds, toys and play equipment from Jacksplace.

"This will also signal the start of a period of intense training in our new equipment and generally ‘living’ with the building for a while to bed in our processes and practices in advance of the first families staying with us towards the end of the month.

"Our carers, nurses, doctors and family support teams are itching to get into the new building and start delivering their exceptional standards of care in a hospice that is truly state of the art.”

The charity’s building project has run concurrent to a fundraising appeal called the Caterpillar Appeal. So far £3,800,000 has been raised by more than 10,000 supporters across the region, bringing Naomi House & Jacksplace ever closer to its target of £4 million.

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