The founder of a support group for parents whose babies need special care at York Hospital has spoken of her pride and astonishment that the service has lasted 30 years.

Pensioner Ellen Willey, from Fulford, set up the charity while working as a ward sister at York Hospital in 1984.

The Special Care Support Group is celebrating reaching its milestone 30th year with a thanksgiving service at York Minster on Sunday .

Mrs Willey, now retired, said: "I am absolutely delighted that the support group has kept going all these years.

"I am very proud of all the parents and staff for keeping it going so long. It's fantastic.

"A lot of other support groups have folded but York has kept going and it is all down to the commitment of those involved."

Mrs Willey had the idea when a parent who had sadly lost her baby kept ringing her up with questions the nurse was unable to answer.

She continued: "I thought I needed help so I spoke to other parents and that is how it all started - with six mothers from different walks of life.

"Their babies were okay but some of them were still on the unit. It just flourished from there."

The charity provides relief, care and treatment for premature and sick new born babies.

Parents and staff work together to give a better start in life to the tiny or sick babies and their families who are being treated and cared for on the unit.

Sister Ann Elliott said: “While staff on the unit do their utmost to provide empathy to all parents, some parents find it very beneficial to speak and exchange concerns and anxieties with others who have had a similar experience.”

The group can provide small clothes for babies when they are discharged.

Debbie Miles, from the support group, said: “We’d like to thank our army of knitters, crocheters and quilters who keep us going with their fabulous creations.

"And of course the people of York and the surrounding area who have been, and continue to be, very generous with fundraising for the unit."

The service on Sunday is at 4pm, and is open to everyone particularly those who have been involved with the support group over the last 30 years, and anyone who was, or has had a baby on the unit during that time.