Parents in Londonderry who have been given the devastating news that their baby has died will now have a place to spend precious time and say goodbye, in the first bereavement suite in Northern Ireland that has been funded and opened by Sands (Stillbirth and neonatal death charity) today.

The Sands Northern Ireland Network funded the project and worked in partnership with the Western Health & Social Care Trust to make the Lavender Suite at Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry a reality. Both organisations met with local parents who helped choose the colour scheme and name of the room.

Dr Clea Harmer opened the Lavender Suite at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry.
From L-R: Melissa Crockett; Carole McKeeman; Jim Moohan; Tommy Ferguson, Chair of Sands NI; Maureen Miller, Head of Midwifery Services; Steven Guy, Sands NI, Dr Clea Harmer, CEO of Sands

Sadly, 76 babies were stillborn in Northern Ireland in 2015. A further 102 babies died neonatally which includes 93 early neonatal deaths (within the first seven days of life)*.

Steven Guy, Network Coordinator for Sands in Northern Ireland, said: “The new Lavender Suite is a huge milestone for the Sands Northern Ireland Network as it is the biggest project we’ve ever attempted, and we are delighted that it is now complete. Sands are always looking for ways to improve the bereavement care given to parents and the new suite will enhance the excellent care provided in Altnagelvin to bereaved parents for many years to come.”

Kieran Downey, Director of Women and Children’s Services at Western Health and Social Care Trust, said: “The opening of the new Lavender Suite at Altnagelvin Hospital marks another welcome development in the provision of bereavement care and support for parents and their families at a very difficult time in their lives. The Western Trust would like to acknowledge the generous funding made available by Sands to help develop this much needed facility.”

Suzi Gourley, a bereaved mother from Bangor, County Down, said: “Hearing the new Lavender Bereavement Suite has opened in Altnagelvin Hospital brings tears to my eyes, yet it is also proof that times are changing. This suite is needed for memory making as our babies matter. As a family we have benefited from the bereavement suite in the Ulster Hospital.

“Our little boy Eli was born sleeping on the 28th July 2016. Just like when a baby is born alive he got held with love, showered with kisses and sang to. As sad as it is family members got to say hello and goodbye, something in the past wouldn’t have been thought of. Eli’s big brothers gathered round him and sang happy birthday and will forever cherish their photos holding their baby brother.

“We had somewhere special and private to create our very own memories with the help and support of staff. My husband was able to stay so I never had to be on my own. Everything we needed was supplied and nobody was rushing us out the doors. We will be forever grateful to all that we had the use of a hospital bereavement suite.”

Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive at Sands, officially opened the Lavender Suite in Ward 45 at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry.  

Sands support groups meet on a monthly basis across Northern Ireland. The groups are run by bereaved parents to help support other bereaved parents. For further information call Steven Guy, Sands’ Northern Ireland Network Co-ordinator on 02838 392509 or email