Date set for construction of Ronald McDonald House in Oxford

Artist's impression of Ronald McDonald House, Oxford
Artist's impression of Ronald McDonald House, Oxford

A £14m project to help children in hospital and their families is about to get underway.

Ronald McDonald House Charities and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have announced that construction of a new 62-bedroom ‘home away from home’ will start in December with a view to opening in summer 2020.

The Ronald McDonald House will provide free accommodation for families whose children are undergoing treatment at Oxford Children’s Hospital, as well as Children’s Critical Care and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on the John Radcliffe Hospital site.

Demand for the existing 17-bedroom Ronald McDonald House on the top floor of the Oxford Children’s Hospital far exceeds the number of families who would like to use the facility, particularly with the need to extend the provision of service to support families of babies who are being treated in NICU.

Planning permission has been granted for a new standalone building to be constructed on the John Radcliffe site, just a few minutes’ walk from the children’s hospital and NICU.

The new house will be purpose-built with more than three times as many bedrooms as the existing facility and so many more families will be able to use it. With ensuite bedrooms and communal living facilities, including kitchens, lounges, playrooms and a laundry room, it will be a true ‘home away from home’ for many more families who would otherwise have to travel from increasing distances at a time of stress and anxiety. It is free and families can stay as long as they need.

The number of children attending Oxford University Hospital has doubled over the last 15 years with an annual increase of between 400-500 children being treated. Because it is a regional centre of excellence, children from a wide geographical area are treated in Oxford and so many families face long travel times unless they can stay locally.

The cost of the new house is more than £14 million. Oxford Hospitals Charity is contributing £2.5 million, much of which has been raised through the Oxford Children’s Hospital 10th Anniversary Appeal thanks to the generous response from the public and the Oxford media. The remainder will come from Ronald McDonald House Charities which has been busy with its own national fundraising. The Trust has donated use of the land free of charge.

Dr Karen Steinhardt, Clinical Director of Children’s Services at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re seeing more children having to travel ever greater distances for medical treatment. Some are with us for as little as a day, while others stay for many months. This new Ronald McDonald House will provide much-needed support and enhance our family-centred care. I am sure it will prove very popular with families.

“This new House will mean more than triple the number of families who can be near their children when they most need them. It will provide a welcoming and nurturing environment to help families to best support their children.”

Jon Haward, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities, said: “The John Radcliffe Hospital is well recognised as a major centre of child healthcare. Increasingly it is receiving children and their families from all over the UK, including Northern Ireland, to receive vital care.

“We undertook research here in Oxford and, together with international evidence, found that close family involvement in the hospital care of their children not only improves outcomes for the patient but is also beneficial to the physical and mental health of families including siblings. Comfortable, supportive accommodation close to the ward is a key enabler in this process.

“Having a sick child can affect families across all areas of their lives, and even basic needs like shelter, food and sleep can become major worries as they struggle to stay near their sick child while keeping everything else afloat. We provide the care and support to ease their strain and keep a sense of normality.

“We now look forward to seeing our new Ronald McDonald House in Oxford become reality and more sick children being able to have their families nearby when in hospital.”

Douglas Graham, CEO of Oxford Hospitals Charity said: “We know the huge positive impact this new house will have for so many families at the most difficult of times. So we have been delighted to work in partnership with our friends at Ronald McDonald House Charities and are incredibly grateful to all those who supported our fundraising efforts towards the new accommodation.”

There are currently 14 Ronald McDonald Houses across the UK, with a 15th opening next year in Edinburgh.