Published on: 9 May 2023

Patients with disabilities can now use a specially kitted out bathroom after hospital bosses took up a cause championed by one of its visitors and his family.

Philip Hughes, from Newbottle and his sister Karen, called on South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust to create a Changing Places space.

Now it is in use after Sunderland Royal Hospital converted a room off one of its main corridors on B Floor.

This is on the same level as its Kayll Road entrance. The what3words address for the room is ///

It is fitted with a hoist attached to a ceiling track.

With the use of a sling, this helps patients with mobility issues to move around the room easily.

It also has an adjustable bed, privacy screen, shower and seat, a toilet with hinged drop rails and a back rest and a height adjustable sink.

The room is big enough so patients and visitors can be supported.  It also has three emergency alert cords along with other features to make it more accessible for people with disabilities to use.

A YouTube video offering a tour of the space can be watched by clicking here.

Philip, who is a wheelchair user, said at the launch:

"I’m so pleased to be here to see the opening of this Changing Places space at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

"I’m over the moon. This will give people like myself the dignity we deserve and make life much more inclusive for us."

Karen added:

"When Philip has been in hospital, he’s had to use a commode and he’s not been able to have a shower because he can’t take his chair into a shower unit. In the past he would have to be helped to have a wash.

"When Philip found out there wasn’t a Changing Places room in the hospital, he wanted to do something about that and from there, we began making his voice heard."

Philip Hughes and his sister Karen, standing to the left of him, with Diane Palmer, Deputy Head of Nursing, and Trust Chief Executive Ken Bremner MBE, with representatives of support groups as the room was launched..png

Philip Hughes and his sister Karen, standing to the left of him, with Diane Palmer, Deputy Head of Nursing, and Trust Chief Executive Ken Bremner MBE, with representatives of support groups as the room was launched.

Diane Palmer, the Trust’s Deputy Head of Nursing and the Trust’s Chief Executive, Ken Bremner MBE were among those to first see the finished room.

They were joined by representatives from Mencap, Sunderland People First, Healthwatch Sunderland and Sunderland Carers Centre.

Diane said: 

"We know this has been a long time coming for Philip and Karen, as well as other patients and those who support them. We were delighted they could join us and see the room completed.

"This is the first Changing Places for us as a Trust and we know it will make the experience for patients and visitors much better."

The Hughes family were supported in their efforts by Sunderland People First (SPF). Philip is a member of its Treat Me Well Mencap group.

Andy Fox is a development worker with SPF, which offers services to people with learning disabilities and autism.

He said:

"To see Philip’s face when he first saw the room was just awesome.

"This room is so important for lots of people, including those with disabilities. It helps to give them the dignity they need while in hospital.

"Everyone at Sunderland People First is immensely proud of Philip and Karen."

Brad Fox, Community Activism Coach – North for Mencap, added:

"I think this is a really good example to show what collaboration and working in partnership can look like. We’re proud of what’s happened because of Philip."

Tara Johnson, Project Lead for Healthwatch Sunderland, said:

"This shows that it’s really important to work together to make progress when it comes to health and social care and we are really pleased patients have this to new facility to use."

Amanda Brown, of Sunderland Carers Centre, added:

"From a carer’s perspective, we are so supportive of this work and we know it will make a difference to people when they visit the hospital."

Another Changing Places room will be installed in the new eye hospital which will be built on the former Vaux Brewery site.

The room can be accessed using a radar key, with notices on display explaining where copies are available to borrow, or they can be bought for £2.50 from the Macmillan centre, which is on the same corridor.

People who need to use the hoist are asked to bring their own sling to use, as these are tailored to their specifications.

More information and a directory of Changing Places locations nationally can be found via