Matt Dawson meets staff and patients at Barnstaple hospital.

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ENGLAND rugby legend Matt Dawson performed the official opening of the new children’s unit at North Devon District Hospital today (Monday).

The former scrum-half and television personality also held a healthy eating demo in the hospital’s Raleigh Galley Restaurant and had a tour of the chemotherapy unit during his visit to Barnstaple.

Matt, who won 77 caps for England and was part of the World Cup winning team in 2003, cut the ribbon at the children’s unit before touring the ward to speak to patients and give out goody bags.

He was joined by Roger French and Jac Kelly, chairman and chief executive of the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, plus a number of invited guests.

The state-of-the-art children’s unit brings together the Caroline Thorpe Ward and the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU).

It includes a purpose-built children’s assessment unit and high-dependency unit; a cardiac monitoring system; school, play and overnight family rooms; improved facilities for parents; and a new resource room for doctor training.

The unit switched to its new location in mid June and is now known as ‘Children’s Services, incorporating Caroline Thorpe and Neonatal Services’.

The move represents the latest phase of a £1million project to bring together services for women, babies and children in the Ladywell Unit.

Jac Kelly, the Trust’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted that Matt Dawson agreed to officially open our new children’s unit, which will offer great benefits to families across North Devon.

“The unit provides a safe, modern and bright environment and features a number of facilities that will significantly enhance the experience of patients, their families and staff.

“With services for women, babies and children now housed under one roof, it will allow staff to share skills and best practice and help us achieve our long-term goal of improving quality of care for all patients.”

Matt was visiting NDDH as a health and wellbeing ambassador for Sodexo, which provides catering, portering and cleaning services for the hospital.

Patients, visitors and staff attended his healthy eating demo and sampled a variety of recipes he has helped to produce with Sodexo chefs.

Matt won Celebrity Masterchef in 2006, came second on Strictly Come Dancing in the same year and is a team captain on TV quiz show A Question of Sport.

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