Countess of Wessex officially opens Leeds Children’s Hospital

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The COUNTESS of Wessex charmed young patients as she officially opened Leeds Children’s Hospital.

Sophie, wife of Prince Edward, said it had been a “privilege” to meet staff and fundraisers.

HRH Sophie The Countess of Wessex meets nine-month-old Finlay Pilkington alongside play specialist Tracey Martin. PIC: James Hardisty

HRH Sophie The Countess of Wessex meets nine-month-old Finlay Pilkington alongside play specialist Tracey Martin. PIC: James Hardisty

Amongst a carnival atmosphere at Leeds General Infirmary, she invited delighted youngsters to help her unveil a plaque at the Clarendon Wing.

Dressed stylishly in a red dress and nude-coloured shoes, the Countess also visited two wards and the hospital’s school room.

As she officially opened the facility, she said: “Can I just say what an absolute privilege it has been today to come and visit the hospital.

“I can see the wonderful facilities you now have for these very special children.”

Helping her unveil the plaque was Hannah Whitaker, from Alwoodley, Leeds, who is awaiting a kidney transplant.

The 12-year-old said afterwards: “I felt very honoured.”

During the ceremony, 10-year-old Bel Young presented the Countess with a posy.

Bel, from Harrogate, spent nine months in hospital after an accident which left her quadriplegic.

She said she enjoyed meeting a royal: “It was amazing – it was a dream come true.”

Sophie was taken to a cystic fibrosis ward and a children’s cancer ward, and dropped in to the Learning Zone, where children continue their studies in hospital. There, the Countess gave tips to youngsters having a lesson on baking.

Olivia Arnold, 11, from Cross Gates, said: “She said she hoped she would not see me here again. She was really nice and she said that my biscuits were nice.”

Fundraisers from the Leeds Children’s Hospital Appeal were also greeted by the Countess, including supporter Sarah Monte.

Sarah, whose daughter Chloe has a rare facial tumour, said: “She was lovely. It brought a tear to my eye to see her talking to the little girl who has had chemotherapy.”

Leeds Children’s Hospital was created after a long-planned new maternity and children’s hospital in Leeds proved unaffordable. Instead £30m was spent centralising in-patient beds for youngsters at LGI.

At the opening, Mark Abrahams, vice chairman of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust board of directors, compared the reorganisation needed to completing a Rubik’s cube.

Following her visit to LGI, the Countess had a tour of the Haven breast cancer support centre in Leeds.