A SCOTTISH woman is cycling 236 miles coast to coast – from Gairloch to Aberdeen – to fundraise for a new maternity hospital.

Paula Cormack said she was embarking on the gruelling journey – which will include one of the UK’s toughest road climbs – because a new facility could make a “tremendous difference for families and babies in particular”.

Speaking to The National, Paula said: “I think we’re very fortunate in Scotland with regards to the care that parents and babies receive, but there is always more that can be done.

“In Aberdeen, it reached a point where the Scottish Government felt that there were no more sticking plasters to improve the existing building. It’s time to invest in new facilities which will make a tremendous difference for families and babies in particular.”

The National: The famed Bealach-Na-Ba hill climb in the HighlandsThe famed Bealach-Na-Ba hill climb in the Highlands

In order to support the new Baird Family Hospital in Aberdeen, Paula and 17 others are aiming to raise £20,000 towards a £2 million appeal with their cycle across Scotland.

The group's collective fundraising currently stands at more than £15,000 with hopes to surpass its initial goal.

One of Paula’s fellow campaigners is fundraising for the Baird Family Hospital Appeal because his daughter experienced heart problems and was operated on as an infant.

Paula recalls meeting the now-12-year old girl and said it was “incredible to see first-hand the difference that the care of the NHS and support of charities like the Archie Foundation makes for families”.

As the chief executive of the Archie Foundation, Paula Cormack feels particularly passionate about improving children’s healthcare in the north of Scotland.

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The charity she leads is dedicated to providing specialist medical equipment which is “above and beyond” the scope of NHS budgets. For instance, the organisation has supported families by transforming manual wheelchairs into electric wheelchairs through the fitting of a power pack.

Aiming to deliver the difference, Paula said, the Archie Foundation “always works with children at the heart”.

In particular, the 18 coast to coast cyclists fundraising for Archie’s Baird Appeal are hoping to raise money for the artworks on the second floor wards and corridors in order to help create a welcoming hospital environment.

Paula said numerous studies have shown that positive environments make a real difference to healthcare outcomes.

Whilst preparing for her challenge this weekend, Paula expressed doubts about mounting the gruelling Bealach-na-ba ascent – known as one of the UK’s toughest road climbs.

She said: “I’d been sitting on the fence, but it’s a once in a lifetime climb and I just thought: it’s time to do what you tell others to do.”

She is looking forward to the experience, hoping for sunshine, and encouraging others to raise awareness about children’s healthcare.

Currently under construction, the new Baird Family Hospital is set to open in autumn 2024 with state-of-the-art facilities as well as breast and gynaecological services.

The Archie Foundation has helped with psychological support for new parents and NHS staff by funding a counsellor for six years in Aberdeen’s neonatal unit.

Additionally, the charity also supports children and young people coping with bereavement free of charge within the Grampian, Tayside and Highland regions.

Paula’s journey is part of BP’s annual coast2coast charity cycle.

You can support Paula’s JustGiving page here.

For more information on the Archie Foundation, visit: https://archie.org/