Local health charity ‘SicKids’ opens its first sensory space at North Manchester General to enhance medical and nursing care for children and young people
13 September 2017

SicKids, a children and young people’s health charity working in the North West of England and in Cambodia, held the grand opening of The SicKids Sensory Space at North Manchester General Hospital today with Mr Barry Dixon CBE DL, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, performing the formal opening ceremony.

The sensory space is the first-of-its-kind in the region and has been made possible through generous donations from The charity’s supporters, The Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent nd, The W O Street Charitable Foundation and The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust Children's Emergency Department Endowment Fund.

Sensory facilities are proven to support the development of the senses – like touch, hearing and sight – through special lighting, music, tactile objects and a calming environment. While many hospitals and health centres in the UK have similar facilities in their children’s wards, there are very few with 21st Century equipment within their emergency departments.

The SicKids Sensory Space at North Manchester General Hospital is the first sensory facility opened by SicKids, which was founded in 2015 by a small group of volunteer Trustees. The charity’s vision is to support the health and wellbeing of children and young people in both the North West and in Cambodia, South East Asia.

While the two regions are geographically and culturally divergent, the Trustees of SicKids believe there are stark similarities and opportunities for health professionals in both countries to share knowledge and develop strategies to relieve sickness and enhance the wellbeing of children and young people.

Because of that, in November 2017 SicKids will open its second state-of-the-art sensory facility, this time at M’Lop Tapang, a non-governmental community project in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. SicKids believes this will be the first such facility in Cambodia, and will offer life-enhancing opportunities for many hundreds of children and young people with developmental delay, which, due to its link to conditions related to poverty, is prevalent in Cambodia.

The Sensory Space was designed by local children and their families, who volunteered to support the project with creative input and ideas to make the facility as welcoming, attractive and effective as possible.

In attendance at today’s grand opening was Her Excellency Dr Rathchavy Soeung, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Cambodia, who was keen to learn more about how children in Cambodia will benefit when SicKids opens its second sensory space in November. M’Lop Tapang’s Medical Team Leader, Ngov Chanravy, who is visiting the UK this week as part of a career development opportunity co-funded by a SicKids grant, was also at the grand opening.

Also present were the Trustees of SicKids (Professor Andrew Rowland, Den Carter, Dianne Cook and Dr Jimmy Stuart) as well as children and young people, and the volunteers who were involved in the design of the Sensory Space, and representatives from the North Manchester General Hospital leadership team.

To symbolise the unique partnership between SicKids and the diverse communities in the North West of England and Cambodia, the Trustees presented the Deputy Lieutenant and the Ambassador with friendship bracelets. The colourful bracelets, worn by SicKids’ Trustees, are hand-made by parents of children attending the M’Lop Tapang facility in Cambodia. The sale of each bracelet, for US$1.25, helps to support street living and street working children, young people, and their families, and keep children in school.

Professor Andrew Rowland, SicKids’ founder and chairperson, said:

“Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, as well as The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, I’m thrilled about the opening of the first-ever SicKids Sensory Space. An amazing team work here at the children’s emergency department at North Manchester General Hospital, and the sensory space will help them go even further in the lifesaving and supportive care they offer to acutely unwell and injured children within the local region.”

Dianne Cook, Director of Nursing at SicKids added: “It’s amazing that children, young people, and their families have co-designed this facility. Having a state-of-the-art sensory space in the children’s emergency department will really help the hospital to deliver better care to children and young people who attend the department with a learning or physical disability. It will also make the environment much more welcoming for children who are frightened about coming to hospital.”

Simon Featherstone, Director of Nursing at North Manchester General Hospital said:

“On behalf of The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, sincere thanks to the team at SicKids, and their supporters, for providing this excellent facility. Over 30,000 children and young people attend the emergency department at North Manchester General Hospital every year. I have no doubt that the new SicKids Sensory Space will significantly improve the care we offer them.”

Mr Barry Dixon CBE DL, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester (pictured with Her Excellency Dr Rathchavy Soeung), said:

“I am delighted to welcome Her Excellency Dr Rathchavy Soeung to the fantastic city of Manchester, and to have the pleasure of opening this wonderful sensory space at North Manchester General Hospital. I’m sure it will make a great difference to the quality of care offered to children and young people. I look forward to hearing about the success of the facility, as well as the forthcoming opening of the sensory space in Cambodia.”

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