TRANMERE Rovers manager John Barnes took time out of new season training to open Arrowe Park Hospital's new children's outpatients department this afternoon.

The ex-Liverpool and former England footballer met staff, had a tour of the facilities and also signed autographs during a visit to the new facility this afternoon.

It is the first phase of an £11.5million scheme to transform facitilities at the hospital.

After cutting the ribbon, father-of-six Barnes told the Globe: "I've been here so many times with my children and the staff always do a wonderful job.

"So to have a designated outpatients department of this standard, which hopefully I'm not going to have to use too often, goes to show the commitment which Arrowe Park Hospital has to families.

"I'm more than pleased to have been asked to come along and open it."

The children's outpatients department has been re-located from the main hospital building into a brand new, purpose-built department within the maternity building.

It will provide a range of general and specialist clinics, including diabetes, rheumatology, asthma and orthopaedic clinics, high quality facilities which are easily accessible, clean and bright, as well as new outdoor and indoor play areas.

It will be staffed by seven consultant paediatricians, an experienced team of paediatric nurses, healthcare assistants, play leaders and clerical staff.

Praising the hard work and dedication of all those involved in bringing the project to fruition, Eryl Hoskins, Trust Chair said: "As a Trust, we are committed to delivering the highest quality of services for all our patients.

"We hope that this new Department will be a shining example of the excellent healthcare that we aim to provide to children, young people and adults across Wirral.

"I should like to thank John particularly for taking time out of his busy pre-season commitments to attend this opening event and for showing such an interest in the care of our patients."

Dr Peter Todd, consultant paediatrician, said: "From the beginning of this development, we were very keen that our services accurately reflected the needs and wishes of patients, visitors and staff. The department was therefore designed by taking these views into account.

"We're delighted that children are now being treated in this first-class facility, which once again demonstrates our commitment to providing the highest standard of care and services for our patients."

A delighted Wirral West MP Stephen Hesford, who was also at this afternoon's unveiling said: "This is the first phase of an £11.5m development which is long overdue and will be fantastic for my constituents.

"I'm looking forward to phases two and three coming on stream soon."