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Celebrating 40 Years of Inspiring Hope for Heart Heroes

2023 marks the 40 year anniversary of the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (Chuf). A milestone and celebration of our dedication to positively impacting the lives of many children and young people who are born with, or develop heart conditions, by providing lifelong support for them and their families, and helping people achieve their full potential.

We achieve this by supporting pioneering services and providing top-up support above and beyond the current NHS funding that is available to The Children’s Heart Unit at Freeman Hospital, which provides care for patients from all across the UK.

Chuf offers a place for anyone affected by a child with heart disease, whether they are now a teenager or a grown up or if they are parent, fundraiser or medical professional. Everyone is part of the family, for life.

Our Story
Set up by Anne Scott, the charity was originally named the Lesley Anne Scott Memorial Fund in memory of her daughter Lesley Ann, who was born with a serious heart problem. The donation of a caravan kickstarted fundraising, as Anne and her husband toured the North East and North Yorkshire raising awareness of the charity and the incredible work taking place at the Freeman Hospital.

The first piece of equipment funded was a heart scanner for the Children’s Heart Unit, and ever since then, Chuf has ensured that the unit remains at the forefront of cutting-edge technology by funding thousands of pieces of equipment large and small.

Anne Scott retired as a Trustee in 1983 and it was her wish that the charity should be renamed the Childrens’ Heart Unit Fund – forming Chuf as we know it today.

Chuf’s support goes far beyond equipment though, and over the last 40 years we have funded some of the largest and most valued facilities and services for children and families on ward 23.

What change have we made in this world?
Heart Heroes are now living longer thanks to medical advances, many of which have been funded by Chuf as the charity has developed. Over the past 40 years, we have funded state of the art, innovative equipment, services and roles, some are one-of-a-kind and unique to the North East and all medically proven to improve the lives of children and their families.

Leading the way with innovation
– For 4 years, Chuf funded the World’s First Fontan Nurse, a role dedicated to caring for children and adults with a Fontan circulation, ensuring their heart and liver function is monitored regularly, minimising the risk of patients becoming lost to follow up. The role is invaluable and provides peace of mind for patients by having a dedicated nurse who is knowledgeable in their condition and can advocate for and manage their care needs. The importance of the role was recently recognised and from April 2022 became a permanent and core service now funded by the NHS.

– To hear that your baby or child has a heart condition can be devastating and a the most upsetting time for parents. The Liaison service was established in 1995 and a post was initially funded for three years by Chuf, before being taken on by the NHS Trust as part of the vital services offered by the Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital. The role was the first in the country to have a home visiting service and this proved to be incredibly beneficial as changes in condition were picked up early and undoubtedly helped to save lives. Today this service has expanded to a liason team who are there to provide families with advice and emotional support throughout their difficult journeys.

– Chuf is one of the only UK charities to accept Cryptocurrency, and to date this , has raised over £200,000 worth of Cryptocurrency, which has funded things such as: innovative research into pioneering paediatric transplantation advances, state of the art medical equipment not available through NHS funding, and supporting Heart Heroes and their families on the unit via the Clown Doctor programme.

Advanced medical technology & research
– State of the art ultrasound machines – these machines are invaluable to the service, improving the success of vascular access procedures in all patients, including very small babies, resulting in less distress and less damage to precious blood vessels.

– Sim Baby ‘Nelle’ – an advanced simulator that looks and acts like a 9-month-old paediatric patient designed to help healthcare providers effectively recognise and respond to critically ill paediatric patients by simulating highly realistic scenarios that meet specific learning objectives focusing on initial assessment and treatment.

– Funded university research project on Hypothermic Oxygenated Perfusion (HOP) of Human Hearts which could prove revolutionary for paediatric patients awaiting a heart transplant.

– Chuf was able to support pioneering surgeons embracing organ preservation technology, the OCS™ HEART (Organ Care System) by funding the arrival of this innovative, ‘game-changing’ technology within Newcastle Hospitals Trust. Since 2016 we have supported the innovative process which allows donor hearts to be transplanted up to 24 hours after retrieval and increases the likelihood of successful transplantation.

Keeping Heart Heroes happy

– Chuf funded the build of the invaluable play facilities at the Freeman Hospital, including a bright, airy playroom, a sensory and audiovisual room, and a large play area for outdoor activities. The playroom is widely regarded as one of the best in the country and would not have been possible without the funding provided. To aid its success and development, we continue to fund materials such as crafts, new toys, gaming equipment and also annual subscriptions of superfast internet access, Disney+ and Netflix. To maximise the use of the facility, Chuf were also instrumental in establishing the incredible play nursing team at the Heart Unit. The dedicated Play Team provide a specific plan of play and development for each child to help them thrive and reach their full potential.

– Since 2006, Chuf has funded the Clown Doctor programme at a cost of £35,000 annually, working in partnership with Tin Arts to deliver what is one of the most important and highly regarded services offered to Heart Heroes by Chuf.   In fact, in 220, the British Medical Journal highlighted the speedier recovery times of children engaging with Clown Doctors post- surgery, and more recently noted the benefits of the Clown Doctors on adolescent mental heath.  Over the years, thousands of individuals have benefited from the comic relief and distraction provided at the toughest times in their journey. We believe in the power of the Clown Doctors so much that in 2021-22 we extended the impact of this service beyond the walls of the Freeman Hospital and have funded a programme of ‘Very Special Meetings’ at an additional cost of £10,500 annually, which has been a great success since it began.

Our Patrons

Sir Graham Wylie: Graham’s close connection with Chuf is owed to the fact that one of his twin daughters Keira, was born with a serious heart defect, requiring several open heart surgeries in the space of her first two years.  Recognising the important work of the charity, he is now a patron of Chuf and has raised millions of pounds over the years to help fund the building of Scott House: an accommodation facility on the grounds of the Freeman Hospital for parents of children going through surgery, as well as updating much of the important equipment used on the Children’s Heart Unit.  Graham’s contribution to the North East region has been acknowledged by the awards of honorary doctorates at both Newcastle and Northumbria University as well as being honoured by the Queen with a CBE.

Alan Shearer: Alan became a Chuf patron in 2012 and has been a wonderful supporter of the charity over the years. One of England’s greatest ever strikers, he is also an ambassador for Speedflex, a high intensity cardio and resistance training concept and he also established the Alan Shearer Foundation in 2012 which funds the Alan Shearer Disability Centre in Newcastle, and has raised over £4 million to date. He became a CBE 2017.

Anthony McPartlin, OBE and Declan Donnelly, OBE: known collectively as Ant & Dec, the English comedy duo from Newcastle have kindly supported Chuf since 2012 and have been instrumental in raising hundreds of thousands of pounds over the years to support the work of the charity.

40th Year Events / Ways to get involved
Become a fundraiser

Donate £40 for Chuf’s 40th year

-Nominate Chuf to be your workplace charity of the year

– Follow us on socials and help raise awareness of our amazing work


Children's Heart Unit Fund - CHUF

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CHUF is a registered charity in England and Wales No 1160831 © 2023.

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