SICK children have a far greater chance of surviving a rare condition, thanks to pioneering work by a specialist medical team in the North-East.

Youngsters whose immune system did not work properly used to need a bone marrow transplant, then had to spend up to two years in a sterile bubble, to make sure it had been a success.

Doctors and nurses on Ward 23 at Newcastle General Hospital have perfected a treatment for Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID), that has boosted survival rates from 50 per cent ten years ago, to nearly 90 per cent.

The system has saved about 100 children and most can be discharged from the hospital within ten weeks.

The hospital is also the only one in Britain to carry out successful transplants using bone marrow that is only half-matched with the patient's own tissue - meaning almost every child can receive the life-saving treatment.

Its four paediatricians diagnose children with severe immune problems at satellite clinics in Belfast, Manchester, Teesside and Edinburgh.

Dr Andrew Cant, consultant paediatrician in immunology and infectious diseases, moved to Newcastle Hospitals Trust to set up the unit from the UK's only other bone marrow transplant centre at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, in 1990.

Next week the Bubble Appeal - which raises money to supply vital equipment, research funding and parental support - celebrates its tenth anniversary and marks raising £500,000 for the unit.

Its patron, TV agony aunt Denise Robertson, said: "With the help of these wonderful people, much has been achieved since 1993. We look forward to still greater things in the next five."