AN appeal has been launched to help improve the experience for children with additional needs visiting Airedale Hospital to undergo surgery.

The so-called Sunshine Sensory Project was established last year by a group of colleagues in the Steeton hospital’s operating theatres.

It was initially funded by the Airedale Hospital and Community Charity, which is now running a dedicated appeal.

In response to feedback from patients and their families, the team has created a sensory pack full of items designed to meet the needs of children visiting the department.

Contents include special headphones, tactile and visually-stimulating sensory toys and so-called picture exchange communication system cards, which help patients unable to communicate their needs verbally.

The department also has a dedicated sensory trolley which includes a relaxing bubble tube, tactile fibre optics and additional sensory toys.

Recent support for the project has included a £3,000 donation from a four-and-a-half-year-old patient and his family, and a gift of a mini Tesla car from the Tesla Owners Club for children to play with when they visit the department.

Karen Taylor, theatre clinical governance manager at the hospital, said: “Theatre staff always endeavour to provide patients with the best possible care.

“The Sunshine Sensory Project gives us the opportunity to actually speak to individual patients and find out how we can provide them with the best care and tailor it to suit their needs.”

Rebecca Tempest, a theatre staff nurse, had first-hand experience of the need for sensory improvements in the department and initiated action.

She said: “My son Baxter visited theatre in 2018 after breaking his leg.

“Baxter has autism and it struck me how ‘sensory unfriendly’ our working environment was – harsh lighting, loud noises and strange faces.

“There was little available to help children regulate their emotions and behaviour to be able to calm themselves.

“I then started thinking about how we could make visiting theatres a more positive experience and I reached out to local schools and parenting groups for feedback.

“This is how we came-up with the sensory packs – and the project snowballed from there with the help of our Airedale charity manager Jodie and the rest of the team.”

For further information about the appeal and to donate, contact the charity team on 01535 294870 or

Alternatively, to donate £10, text SUNSHINE to 70480.

The Airedale Hospital and Community Charity raises funds to enhance facilities and experiences for patients and staff at the site.