Philanthropist’s £2.5m donation

Helen McArdle CBE is to donate £2.5m to the University of Sunderland - the largest contribution ever received by the higher education institution.

The multi-million pound partnership with the philanthropist and entrepreneur will benefit teaching and research in nursing and care. Through scholarships and student prizes, Helen’s donation will also support and celebrate trainee nurses at the Sunderland School of Nursing.

The University’s Shackleton House building has been re-named Helen McArdle House in recognition of this extraordinary gift. After a multimillion-pound transformation in 2017/18, the former 1990s office building is now used by the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing. Healthcare professionals of the future – including nurses, psychologists, paramedics, and soon, doctors – have access to as close to a real-life experience as possible, within the safety of a training environment.

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Helen McArdle House hosts a state-of-the-art patient transfer suite enabling nurses, paramedics, medical staff, health professionals and ‘Patient, Carer and Public Involvement’ (PCPI) participants to practice communication, hand-over and clinical skills in a real-life care environment. Also in the building are two mock hospital wards, assessment suites, an infection control isolation room and a mental health and wellbeing suite, which includes a mock mental health and wellbeing ward and a wellbeing simulation observation suite.

Helen McArdle CBE, who formally launched her eponymous Nursing and Care Research Institute at Helen McArdle House, commented: “My whole life has been dedicated to making a difference, both in my care homes and nurseries.

“I am very impressed by the University of Sunderland’s ambition and its commitment to improving patient care. I know that my donation will make a difference and so I am delighted to be able to help the University further develop its plans for teaching and research. I will be keeping in regular touch with the team at the University and look forward to seeing some excellent progress and results.” 

“I knew instantly after meeting the team here that we could work together, to encourage more people into this vital profession. I am very proud to be standing here today, working with David and his team.

"As I have said before, I have been lucky enough to surround myself with the best people and I believe that, in supporting this venture, I have again surrounded myself with the best. And hopefully, through the Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute, other people will be lucky enough to have some of the best nurses on their side too.”

Sir David Bell, the University’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive commented: “We are hugely indebted and grateful to Helen McArdle for her support Helen’s donation is a game-changer for us and, potentially, life-changing for patients. Helen’s values chime with ours as we seek to improve patient care in our region and beyond.

“Helen’s donation will allow us to establish PhD research studentships as well as scholarships and prizes to support and celebrate our student nurses. We are also very excited to be creating The Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute. This unique facility in our region will help us drive forward research focused on achieving excellence in nursing and patient care.”

Helen McArdle CBE established her care home business in the 1980s. When she sold the business in 2017, Helen McArdle Care had 20 care homes and was the highest quality care provider in the UK, with four ‘Outstanding’ Care Quality Commission (CQC) ratings. In 2015, Helen was awarded a CBE for her services to the care home industry and the local community, receiving the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Social Care’ award at the Great North East Care Awards in 2016.

Himanshu Kalla, President: Education at Sunderland Students’ Union said: “We are delighted to learn about the generous donation to the University’s Nursing department by Helen McArdle. This funding will open up opportunities for students to learn in exceptional industry standard facilities as well as creating new opportunities for students to benefit from brand new scholarships and bursaries.

“We hope that this will enhance Sunderland’s already excellent reputation for Nursing courses and are very excited about the future research opportunities that this donation will make possible.”

Improving patient care

As a result of Helen McArdle CBE’s support, the University will establish the Helen McArdle PhD Studentship and The Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute.

Focusing on inter-professional research across nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals (NMAHP), The Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute will be based in Helen McArdle House and focus on relevant, high-quality research that will directly improve patient care.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Young, commented: “It is our intention that The Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute will become a national hub for impactful research into patient care. We will achieve this through collaboration with academic and clinical colleagues across higher education and the National Health Service.”

Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, Professor Tony Alabaster, said: “The Institute’s high-quality research will directly improve patient care by focusing on inter-professional research across nursing, midwifery, allied health professionals and other direct care staff. Our research will employ a variety of methodologies to explore solutions to challenges and opportunities in patient care.”

Sue Brent, Head of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, added: “We are particularly pleased to be able to recruit into the Helen McArdle PhD Studentships. Attached to the research institute, these full-time research students will benefit society by focusing on new knowledge and ideas that will improve nursing and patient care.”   

Supporting student nurses

The Helen McArdle Nursing Scholarship programme will provide financial support to five student nurses each year, who will have the chance to access scholarships through a £1.5m permanent endowment.

The Scholarships are open to students most in need of financial support on the BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing Practice, BSc (Hons) Learning Disability Nursing Practice and BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing Practice programmes. Students can apply for the scholarship at the point of application and, if successful, will receive a £1,200 bursary to support their living costs for each of their three years of study.

In addition to the scholarships, the £150 Helen McArdle Nursing Prize will be presented at the University’s summer and winter academic awards ceremonies. The recipient will be the most outstanding nursing student, as chosen by the McArdle family in collaboration with staff in the Sunderland School of Nursing. The first Helen McArdle Nursing prize will be presented to an outstanding graduating nurse at the University’s winter academic awards in November 2019.

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