A conversation with John Wagget, former Trustee of The Sick Children’s Trust and Paediatric Surgeon at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary

John Waggett was one of the founding members of Crawford House and in turn has helped over 12,000 families stay close to their seriously ill child in hospital. We spoke to John to find out more about Crawford House as we celebrate 25 years of keeping families together

“It was the 90s and among all the paediatrians we were starting to see an increasing number of families come from far away, such as West Cumberland, to Newcastle for specialist treatment for their children. It’s a long distance to travel and the majority of the children that we were seeing had long term treatments. Children were having surgery, or undergoing treatment for cancer and other medical conditions. They needed to stay at the hospital for some time away from home.

“We were aware of The Sick Children’s Trust’s ‘Homes from Home’ in London, supporting families at Great Ormond Street Hospital. A team of us recognised that we needed a facility like that in Newcastle. So, myself and my wife, alongside Anne Galbraith who was the Chair of the RVI and other leading figures in the community gathered to see what we could do. There was a building that was vacant, it had been nurses’ quarters. Anne requisitioned the building for the purpose of Crawford House and from then it moved quite quickly. We fundraised locally and applied for grants to fund the refurbishment and make it a place for families to stay. Make it Crawford House.”

Crawford House was the first of its kind in Newcastle – a place dedicated to giving families with a seriously ill child in Newcastle’s RVI somewhere to stay. The refurbishment of the building cost £1.1 million and began in 1995. When the ‘Home from Home’ was opened a year later, it could support up to 15 families a night. 25 years on it has expanded and can now accommodate up to 24 families a night. 

“Opening Crawford House was a significant moment and I am pleased I could be a part of that. As someone who loved my job, seeing the difference it made to families was important. I was a trustee for The Sick Children’s Trust for three years and even though I retired over 20 years ago, I remember it fondly. It was a ‘Home from Home’ to many people, with its benefits sometimes unseen.

“25 years on why would I encourage someone to support The Sick Children’s Trust and Crawford House? I would because we are solving the problem and the need. We are giving families somewhere to stay close to their child in hospital.”

We would like to thank John and everyone else who was involved in the founding of Crawford House. Since opening in 1996 we have been able to give over 12,000 families with a seriously ill child at Newcastle’s RVI a place to stay, keeping them close to their loved one’s bedside.

Read the impact this has had on our families here.

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