A HOSPICE is getting a state-of-the-art unit to help it expand its services.

Willow Burn Hospice has been given a £1.5million donation by entrepreneur and philanthropist Helen McArdle to kickstart the work, which is due to start in the next few weeks.

The Lanchester hospice is launching a campaign to raise further funds to develop the facility with extra specialist equipment.

Chief executive Vicki Dale said: “Willow Burn Hospice is such a special place, our patients and their families are at the heart of everything we do and for us to have created a partnership with Helen McArdle that will allow the residents of our local communities to benefit from such a fantastic facility is something we are all very proud of.

Willow Burn Hospice first opened its doors in 1989 when two remarkable women, Irene Mortimer and Valerie Davison decided to start providing palliative and end of life care services to the people of Derwentside.

“We are reaching our 30 year anniversary next year and we have a responsibility to ensure that this much valued service continues to benefit our communities. This new facility will hopefully strengthen the hospice’s foundation to ensure we can do this for years to come.”

The new in-patient unit will have six beds, each with modern facilities, en-suite bathrooms and access to an outdoor terrace.

Work is expected to start shortly and should be completed by the end of 2018.

Helen McArdle said: “I am extremely proud to be supporting such a wonderful organisation as they set out on a journey that will change the face of care in the Derwentside area.

“Funding the build of the new in-patient unit at Willow Burn Hospice is a fantastic opportunity for me to give back to a community that means so much to me and my family.”

Paul Jackson, chair of the hospice’s board, said: “We know that our new facility will be something the community can be proud of and we welcome everyone to come along and get involved.”

The hospice has also recently been given free consultation and advice, worth £12,000, from 24 communication professionals to help it raise the charity’s profile.