A North-East hospice has re-opened its children’s unit following a temporary closure due to a staffing shortage.

Families and patients returned to the unit at Butterwick Hospice, in Stockton, today.

Ahead of the reopening, the unit was opened up to civic dignitaries, medical professions, commissioners, representatives of schools, colleges and universities, as well as staff from other hospices.

They included the Mayor of Stockton, Councillor Lynn Hall, and the Mayor of Hartlepool, Councillor Brenda Loynes.

Butterwick Hospice chief executive Debbie Jones explained: “A number of factors beyond our control led to staffing problems and the decision to temporarily close the children’s unit was taken in the interests of providing a safe service to all our patients.

“Following the brief closure period, we are delighted to have recruited a number of high-quality staff and we are looking forward to resuming this priceless service to families.”

Councillor Hall praised the hospice’s nursing staff and the charity’s approach to recruitment, saying “you hire wonderful people”.

The new recruits to the Butterwick team include five new nurses, including one from Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, a clinical lead, and a junior sister.

Nurses, doctors, and family support counsellors were on hand to show visitors around the unit, answer questions, and speak about the hospice’s work.

The six-bed unit comprises four children’s bedrooms and two rooms for young adults, as well as a communal lounge, a sensory room, treatment rooms, family overnight accommodation, and the Sunflower Room, where bereaved parents can spend time with children who have passed away.

Megan Mackay, one of the newly-hired nurses, said: “I’ve always wanted to work with children, help families, and be doing something to make a real difference. I know working at Butterwick will be upsetting at times, but I’ve no doubt it will be very rewarding, and I just hope I can help make a difference.”

Paula Wood, Director of Patient Care: “We have seized the opportunity of the closure to review to our team structure, ensure we’re meeting our patients’ needs in the best way possible. We’ve used the downtime for additional staff training, team-building, and revisiting our core principles to ensure the care we offer is the best it can be.”