Beds, Herts & Bucks

Luton house transformed to help parents of sick children

Scaffolders outside a house Image copyright Luton & Dunstable University Hospital
Image caption The scaffolding was put up in March

A former 1930s council house is being transformed into accommodation for parents whose babies are being cared for at a neo-natal unit.

About 70 different trades people have volunteered to help renovate the building in Luton for the Luton & Dunstable University Hospital.

It will support up to 420 families a year, the hospital said.

Builder Robert Burton said it will be a "godsend" for parents.

Image caption About 70 trades people have donated their time for free

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Big Build Project started in February, and since then the former three-bedroom house, opposite the hospital on Dunstable Road, has turned into a five-bedroom property.

Mr Burton said the labour and materials had been donated and, as every ceiling had been rebuilt, it would normally have cost £70,000-£80,000.

Two of his own five children were treated in an NICU unit and he said it would be "a sanctuary" for parents.

"The guys have transformed it. All you want to be is with your children," he said.

Image copyright Luton & Dunstable University Hospital /BBC
Image caption The house before it was renovated and during renovation

So far the house has a new roof, windows, a conservatory, wet room and a fitted kitchen.

Justin Irwin, chief executive of the Bliss charity for premature or sick babies, said its research showed one third of neo-natal units in England could not offer accommodation to parents.

"For babies to have the very best outcomes, it is essential their parents are able to be by their side... so this is a really positive step."

The next stage is to furnish the house and an appeal has been launched to get branded items and furniture.

Bianca-Lee John, community fundraiser for the hospital, said: "When we put out the call for help in February we had no idea of the magnitude of support we would receive.

"To see the transformation has been inspiring and that is all down to the kindness and generosity of local people."

Image copyright Luton & Dunstable University Hospital
Image caption A new kitchen will replace the old one

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