ENTREPENEUR and philanthropist Helen McArdle is to donate £2.5m to the University of Sunderland - the largest contribution ever received by the higher education institution.

The multi-million pound partnership with Ms McArdle will benefit teaching and research in nursing and care. Through scholarships and student prizes, her donation will also support and celebrate trainee nurses at the Sunderland School of Nursing.

The University’s Shackleton House building will be re-named Helen McArdle House in recognition of thie gift. After a multimillion-pound transformation in 2017/18, the former 1990s office building is now used by the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing.

Healthcare professionals of the future – including nurses, psychologists, paramedics, and soon, doctors – have access to as close to a real-life experience as possible, within the safety of a training environment.

Helen McArdle House hosts a state-of-the-art patient transfer suite enabling nurses, paramedics, medical staff, health professionals and ‘Patient, Carer and Public Involvement’ (PCPI) participants to practice communication, hand-over and clinical skills in a real-life care environment. Also in the building are two mock hospital wards, assessment suites, an infection control isolation room and a mental health and wellbeing suite, which includes a mock mental health and wellbeing ward and a wellbeing simulation observation suite.

Helen McArdle CBE, who will formally launch her eponymous Nursing and Care Research Institute on 10 September at Helen McArdle House, commented: “My whole life has been dedicated to making a difference, both in my care homes and nurseries.

“I am very impressed by the University of Sunderland’s ambition and its commitment to improving patient care. I know that my donation will make a difference and so I am delighted to be able to help the University further develop its plans for teaching and research. I will be keeping in regular touch with the team at the University and look forward to seeing some excellent progress and results.”

Sir David Bell, the University’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive commented: “We are hugely indebted and grateful to Helen McArdle for her support Helen’s donation is a game-changer for us and, potentially, life-changing for patients. Helen’s values chime with ours as we seek to improve patient care in our region and beyond.

“Helen’s donation will allow us to establish PhD research studentships as well as scholarships and prizes to support and celebrate our student nurses. We are also very excited to be creating The Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute. This unique facility in our region will help us drive forward research focused on achieving excellence in nursing and patient care.”

Helen McArdle CBE established her care home business in the 1980s. When she sold the business in 2017, Helen McArdle Care had 20 care homes and was the highest quality care provider in the UK, with four ‘Outstanding’ Care Quality Commission (CQC) ratings. In 2015, Helen was awarded a CBE for her services to the care home industry and the local community, receiving the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Social Care’ award at the Great North East Care Awards in 2016.

Himanshu Kalla, President: Education at Sunderland Students’ Union said: “We are delighted to learn about the generous donation to the University’s Nursing department by Helen McArdle. This funding will open up opportunities for students to learn in exceptional industry standard facilities as well as creating new opportunities for students to benefit from brand new scholarships and bursaries.

“We hope that this will enhance Sunderland’s already excellent reputation for Nursing courses and are very excited about the future research opportunities that this donation will make possible.”