A FORMER cricket star has officially opened new first class facilities for patients at a hospice.

Former England cricketer Geoff Cook cut a ribbon today (WED) to open the new patient area at St Cuthbert's Hospice, in Durham.

The £367,000 extension, opened by Durham County Cricket Club's Director of Cricket, includes a new lounge area for patients.

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As part of the project, there will also be new laptops for in-patients, new IT and computer systems, a new palliative care doctors' office, a new minibus and improved mortuary facilities and a new viewing area for relatives.

Mr Cook said: "I would like to congratulate everybody who has played a part in this. I wish everyone the very best of luck."

Hospice chairman Wynn Griffiths said: "It had become apparent that the fabric of our buildings, particularly the patient areas, needed to be updated to ensure we were able to continue to provide the best possible care for patients and their families.

"Here at the Hospice, we have been able to refurbish and upgrade our 13 in-patient rooms.

"Half of our rooms did not have direct access out into our beautiful grounds. Thanks to this project, anyone who is staying with us in the in-patient unit can get immediate access, in their bed if necessary, to their own patio and enjoy the beauty of our gardens.

"The external doors and windows replace the old ones which leaked and were draughty, the new wood laminate flooring replaces carpets.

"We have been extremely prudent, bringing in work some £80,000 under budget. We believed the areas we have targeted will future-proof us for some time to come."