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Update on plans to move the baby memorial garden at University Hospital of North Durham

Thank you to those families who attended the first two engagement events on Thursday 27 January and Monday 30 January regarding the move of the baby memorial garden at the University Hospital of North Durham.

The meetings were held to share more on the Trust's plans to extend the emergency department which involves the need to therefore move the current baby memorial garden and to listen to the views of families who have plaques and other memorabilia in the current garden in remembrance of their lost children.

The Trust fully appreciates the sensitive nature of this project and the emotions involved with the move. It is committed to working with families to understand how the move can be made in the most compassionate way and to understand what can be done in the new space to make that as comfortable as possible for families.

The current emergency department is caring for double the number of patients it was built to accommodate. The waiting area was built to accommodate 40 people, this number is regularly as high as 100 and sometimes as many as 120.

The site does not allow for any other options to extend the department other than to come out from the front of the existing building. This area currently includes the grade 2 listed building 'dryburn house'. Planning permission has been granted but only if the Trust employs specialist contractors to demolish dryburn house. The Trust is also in discussion with Beamish Museum about how the historic building could be captured and displayed.

Behind dryburn house there is also a long narrow building known as the east wing corridor. This building is in an increasing state of disrepair and the lower half of the building is already vacant without the possibility of being useable again in the future. This building would also be demolished as part of the emergency department scheme.

The demolition of this building is scheduled to begin in April. To prepare the site safely for the start of these works, hoardings will start to be erected from the beginning of March. These will need to go up around the area including the current baby memorial garden.

The Trust wishes to engage with families, in the first instance,  over the coming 4 - 6 weeks to compassionately support the transition to the new garden and then in the longer term discuss arrangement for a 'friends of group' or a 'trustee group' to help maintain the new garden in the future.

At the engagement meetings, the Trust acknowledged that communication leading up the events and about the move could have been better and will work on improving this moving forward.

Through the two events and an online survey, a number of common themes and ideas are emerging:


Trust response

Where is the new garden

The new garden will be located in the current 'woodland walk' area on the hospital site. It is located adjacent to the Trust car parking reception and headquarters building at the far end of the patient and public car park.

A secure site is important

The new garden will be locked and fully enclosed.

More accessible (if it is padlock and key - not to have to get this from A&E reception)


If the new garden is created 'like for like' with a padlock and key - the new key would be available from the security team in the Trust HQ not A&E. However, alternative solutions will be investigated.

The space needs to be well lit

Lighting will be installed into the new garden

The new area is not accessible

The Trust will work with contractors to investigate improvement works to the pathway access to the new garden. In addition the trust will proved a dedicated road crossing and pedestrian path to the walk.

The new area is noisy

Fences can be heightened and additional shrubbery or trees added to help shield some of the noise

Could an alternative site be found

We have considered any other possible options and none of these have been practical to take forward. The woodland walk site is the only viable option at this time.

I don't want to move my baby's plaque and memorabilia to the new garden

We respect your decision. We will have a specialist contractor available in the current garden on the current dates, when we can support you to remove your plaque and memorabilia to take away with you. If at a later date you have a change of heart and would like to place your plaque the new garden, we will support you to do this.

I would like to move my baby's plaque and memorabilia myself to the new space

We will support you to do this. We will have a specialist contractor to help with the physical move of the plaque and are organising further arrangements to share with families who wish to be involved soon.

How will the plaques and memorabilia be moved

Specialist contractors will support the move by removing the wood panelling that holds the plaques and relocate. As a whole - where that is not possible the contractor will relocate the plaque as well as the back timber and remount in the new location We will photograph the current sites so that all memorabilia is captured together with the plaques and can be relocated together in the new garden. If we are not able to move the plaques and memorabilia straight away into the new space we will store these securely and sensitively until they can be put in place.

When will the move take place

We would like to begin the move towards the end of February. The current garden will still be accessible while the hoardings are in place, we are conscious however that access will not be as easy and there will be increased noise. We will inform all families of a final date for the current garden when this is known.

How will you move the ashes

We have again commissioned specialist contractors, together with the support, of an undertaker to advise on the move and oversee it. The recommendation which we will deliver is that we lift 9 inches of the garden from the current garden to move to the new site.


If you have a plaque and memorabilia in the current garden for your lost child, please consider becoming involved in the following ways:

1. We will be holding more engagement events to listen to your views. The next event will be a virtual event on Friday 10 February between 12 noon - 1pm. Please register for a place and to receive the link by contacting our Patient Experience Manager: or 0800 783 5774.

2. Register your details with our patient experience team to inform us whether you would like to move your plaque to the new garden and if you have any special requests for this, for example if you would like to be present when it is moved or if you would like to choose the location in the new garden (if you have attended an event and already shared your preferences there is no need to do this again).

3. You can share your views through an online survey:

If you have any other queries or comments then please contact the Trust's Patient Experience Manager: or 0800 783 5774.


Published: 01 February 2023

'I have to compliment everyone on their pleasant persona and their expertise and knowledge. By the end of the 5 days, I did not feel as though I had been in a hospital ward and was very relaxed.'

Patient, Ward 16 Orthopaedics, University Hospital of North Durham