'Demolishing Frenchay unit could damage future fundraising efforts'
FUNDRAISERS who led a campaign to build a children's hospital unit are fighting to save it from demolition.
Bob Woodward and David Giles led the successful £4-million campaign for the Barbara Russell Unit, which opened at Frenchay Hospital in 2000 and provides world-renowned care for children's burns and neurosurgery.
But they are angry that plans for the future of the site drawn up by the hospital trust do not include the retention of the building.
North Bristol NHS Trust has been working with planning experts to draw up a potential blueprint for the future of the site to help them market it to possible developers.
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Most of Frenchay Hospital's services are transferring to the new £430-million Southmead Hospital and Bristol Children's Hospital in 2014.
An area of the site has been earmarked for a community hospital and possibly other health and social care services, with the rest due to be sold. As previously reported in the Post, they are looking at an application for a primary school, shops and up to 500 houses on the bulk of the 70-acre site. An initial masterplan was drawn up by the trust and people in the area were consulted on the proposals.
However Mr Woodward – whose home backs onto the hospital site – and David Giles, chairman of the Jack and Jill Appeal, which raised the money for the unit, are disappointed that the proposals suggest that there will be no future for the Barbara Russell and Macmillan units.
Mr Giles believes the decision to demolish the buildings constructed after major fundraising campaigns locally could affect charitable giving to the NHS in the future.
"It is not just about the bricks and mortar, it is about the effect it will have on a community," he said.
"It is going to have an effect on charitable giving to the NHS in this neck of the woods.This campaign was not just about the big contributors but the little ones who worked hard to get the money for the unit and the result is it is going to be demolished after 14 years."
Mr Woodward, who also founded children's cancer charity CLIC, was the voluntary director for the appeal. He has been looking at potential alternatives for the Barbara Russell building and has discussed the possibility of it being retained for the rehabilitation of young neurosurgery patients.
The hospital trust said the proposal was in its early stages, but had suggested the Burden Neurological Centre, which backs on to Bristol Road, as a potential location rather than the specialist children's unit because the Barbara Russell building was not being kept under its plans.
Mr Woodward said: "The Burden Unit does not have the same feel about it as the Barbara Russell unit.
"I think the people out there who did every charitable thing they did to raise that money to create an absolutely superb unit will feel it is something that should not be demolished. Someone has come up with a brilliant idea for an alternative use and I don't think it should be demolished."
Mr Giles said the Barbara Russell unit was built for children on one level rather than the multi-story children's hospital, which he argued would not be as suitable for the rehabilitation of young patients.
People in the area will be able to comment further on the trust's plans before they are submitted to South Gloucestershire Council planners in the autumn.
The hospital trust said it would be "inappropriate to pre-judge" the final outcome of the masterplan for the site, but said that the Barbara Russell and Macmillan units are in the centre of the site, which is some distance from the area earmarked for healthcare facilities, making it "very difficult for them to have an alternative function and provide NHS services".
North Bristol NHS Trust said that all facilities provided in the Barbara Russell and Macmillan units will continue for patients at the children's hospital and Southmead.
"North Bristol NHS Trust is incredibly grateful to Mr Woodward and everyone who raised funds to build the Barbara Russell unit in the late 1990s.
"In 2014 children's services will be centralised at Bristol Children's Hospital – by this time it would have treated more than 30,000 children."