Countess of Wessex opens new breast cancer unit and gets hands on to help homeless

The Countess of Wessex has carried out a number of engagements in Worcestershire, including opening a new breast cancer unit and visiting a homeless hostel.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, arrived at Worcester Royal hospital in the royal helicopter yesterday, to open a new state-of-the-art breast unit. The man in charge of the unit, consultant surgeon Steven Thrush, said: “When I first set out the service was not what it should be and what we tried to achieve, and what we have achieved, is a service that offers comfort through a difficult time.”

The Countess spent the afternoon touring the facility, meeting staff and former patients including Kate Butler, 41, and Susie Coleman, 39 who have raised £100,000 towards to facility.


Ms Butler described the Royal as ‘lovely’ and ‘really down to earth’ after the visit.

The unit has the Breast Cancer Haven service operating from it once a week, providing free support to help relieve the physical and emotional side effects of a breast cancer diagnosis.

Unveiling a plaque to open the unit, Sophie said: “It really just helps any individual feel more confident about where they are and what has happened and hopefully means that what is otherwise not a great experience is as best as one can get.

“For us as a small charity, we wish that we had all the money in the world to create a Haven in every town and city in the country – sadly we can’t do that but for us to become more agile and to be actually providing this service here is really a dream for us.”

The £1.8 million unit, which was opened in March 2016 and was paid for entirely by a fundraising campaign, provides a comprehensive service under one roof for women and men across the county for all breast related issues.


The Countess is the president of Breast Cancer Haven’s guardian programme.

As she departed, the Royal was presented with a bouquet of flowers by Steven Thrush’s daughter Genevieve.

Sophie then visited St Paul’s Hostel in Tallow Hill, where she listened to poetry readings, learnt more about the work the organisation carries out to help those who have experienced trauma and how the organisation supports people through homelessness.

During her day in the area, the Countess also visited NewStarts in Bromsgrove. The charity provides help and support for homeless people moving into a new home and have no possessions. The organisation kits out their home with everything they need from furniture to crockery and other essentials. The charity also operates a food bank.

Sophie was given a tour of NewStart’s premises and spoke to staff and volunteers. The Queen’s daughter-in-law even rolled up her sleeves to help pack a box full of essentials, including crockery, cutlery and other items.

Among the staff she met was chef Manuel Pachon who cooks lunches for volunteers and Sophie tried an omelette he had created.  “She loved the omelette,” Manuel said. “She is definitely the most high profile person I have ever cooked for.”

The Countess’s visit ended with the unveiling of a plaque and a short speech, in which she said: “I would like to say thank you on behalf of all the families and people you have helped over the years.

“I cannot imagine how they would feel when they receive the help you give them. Thank you for everything you do on a daily basis.”

The charity’s CEO Marion Kenyon added: “It was wonderful, exciting and a real privilege to welcome the Countess.

“It was lovely to see her, not only speaking to our staff and volunteers, but also getting so involved and trying her hand at a few things they do each day.”

Coun Helen Jones, the chairman of Bromsgrove District Council, has chosen NewStarts as her charity of the year after several causes were put forward by residents. She said: “She was really lovely. The royal visit was such a good event for the charity and Bromsgrove.

“I’m really happy that I chose NewStarts for my charity of the year.”

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