A NEW hospice wing was officially opened as part of a £900,000 hospice refurbishment today.

Marie Curie's Bradford Hospice has been overhauled to give patients a higher and more dignified level of care - but staff say it has also helped boost morale as nurses are so proud of their new surroundings.

Patron of Marie Curie Christine Hamilton Stewart said: "Marie Curie has nine hospices nationally and the Bradford hospice is the busiest of them all.

"We needed to refurbish it because of this high level of use and also because we have the will to expand our much needed services as the ageing population grows over the next few decades."

Twelve-year-old carpets which were difficult to clean have been replaced with new flooring, which has already has led to fewer patients tripping and falling.

New window ventilation units mean rooms smell fresher, giving patients more dignity, and push fresh air into bedrooms making it easier for people with breathing difficulties.

The work, which took four months, has been paid for by the charity, a £300,000 Government grant and £300,000 from the charitable trust of Bradford-based cash plan provider Sovereign Health Care.

The latter donation has been recognised with the naming of a wing at the hospice in Maudsley Street, which was opened by the chairman of Sovereign Health Care Charitable Trust, Dr Robert Dugdale, and Dr Sarah Holmes, consultant in palliative medicine at the hospice.

The Sovereign Wing has two single rooms and a pair of three bed rooms, each with wet room en-suite facilities.

There is also a new patio and state-of-the-art equipment, including aids to help patients with breathing.

Dr Holmes said: “We’re very grateful to Sovereign Health Care Charitable Trust for its hugely generous donation.

“Research has shown repeatedly that a supportive and welcoming environment can have positive effects on those who visit hospices, whether as patients or visitors, and people who work in them, and the Sovereign Wing now certainly fits that description.”

Dr Dugdale added: “Marie Curie received about £300,000 from the Department of Health to fund the overall refurbishment but relied on other sources, such as donations, to make up the near £600,000 shortfall and we’re delighted to have helped significantly in this respect."

Russ Piper, Sovereign Health Care’s chief executive and trustee of the Sovereign Health Care Charitable Trust, said the hospice had always cared for cancer patients, but now dealt with a whole range of complex illnesses which reflected a change in medical science and the population.

"I think the fact that it's [the refurbishment] making a difference and that the rooms look lovely , they give people dignity when they're here, to make a positive difference is a nice feeling," he said.

Mrs Hamilton Stewart added: "The patients are so grateful to be here and get this amazing support. The new facilities allow us to treat our patients with the respect that they deserve. Patients not only with cancer, but with many other complex diseases such a Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson's disease and heart failure.

"This amazing gift from Sovereign has made such a difference to the Bradford community. The support from such a philanthropic local business is very important to an organisation like Marie Curie."

Clinical manger Nicola Ward said the makeover at the 16-bed hospice had a real impact on both patients and staff.

"Key things that make a difference are the flooring, which are already preventing falls. And they're so much easier to clean than the carpets," she said.

"The window vents might only look like a little thing, but they make such a big difference. A lot of patients use commodes and so to have that ventilation means the rooms are fresher and it's more dignified for them. The vents also bring fresh air in and that makes a big difference for patients with breathing difficulties."

Hospice facilities manager Dominque Owen said the hospice's rooms were also more comfortable, as well as practical.

"It was comfortable before, but it's just amazing now. It's a lot easier for patients to move around as well, we've widened doors to make it easier for them to get to en-suites.

"From a practical view it's just made everything so much easier to maintain and it gives the impression you're working a hotel, rather than hospice.

"Anecdotal feedback from patients has been so positive. They're coming into an environment that's far beyond what they expect."

Signs for the refurbishment were donated by Butterfield Signs, based in Sunbridge Road.

"That has saved us thousands of pounds," Mrs Hamilton Stewart said.

"If you translate that to nursing hours, it's just unbelievable. Every hour of nursing costs £20."

Marie Curie has been helping patients in West Yorkshire since 1963 and the hospice has 90 members of staff, including about 70 nursing specialists, and 100 volunteers.

The site is a hub for the Marie Curie Nursing Service in the region.

Last year, staff at the hospice, which costs £3.3 million a year to run, cared for more than 320 inpatients and more than 300 patients in its day therapy unit.