Children can take comfort from an Oxford comic when they arrive at hospital for an operation.

A special version of the popular comic, The Phoenix, has been created for young patients coming in for surgery at the Oxford Children’s Hospital and Horton General Hospital.

The Incredible Hospital Comic has been funded by Oxford Children’s Hospitals Charity and created by the charity’s artlink programme, in association with The Phoenix comic, with 5,000 copies printed so far to give to young patients.

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It includes stories, written and drawn in a child-friendly way, that answer questions children often ask, and has jokes, puzzles and even a gallery of the cuddly toys youngsters take into hospital with them.

The Phoenix comic for Oxford Childrens Hospital

The Phoenix comic for Oxford Children's Hospital

The 34-page magazine was carefully planned with input from many young patients as well as key hospital staff.

The different stories take children through what to expect at various stages of their hospital journey and familiarises them with procedures and the staff they will meet.

Ruth Charity, the charity’s art’s co-ordinator, said: “The idea for the comic came about from conversation with staff about how to reassure children, especially those who had never been into hospital before.

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"We spent a long time trying to get the magazine exactly right – so it would really appeal to children, entertain them and make them laugh, while also answering the kind of questions we know they have and allaying their fears about having an operation.

The Phoenix childrens hospital comic

The Phoenix children's hospital comic

“The Phoenix team have been incredible to work with, and so patient - as projects like these take a long time to get right. And just before we started printing, Covid hit, so we managed to quickly add a section about staff wearing PPE, just in time for the print run.”

Since then the magazine has been shared with hundreds of children, even, unexpectedly, the child of artist Neill Cameron, who created the central comic strip of the magazine - which follows a child’s experience of coming into hospital for an operation.

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Mr Cameron said: “When I was approached to work on this special version of The Phoenix I spent days up at the hospital talking to doctors, nurses, play specialists, and running interviews and workshops with kids on the wards and in the hospital school.

Oxford Childrens Hospital Matron Zoe Pooley with the special Phoenix comic Picture: Oxford Hospitals Charity

Oxford Children's Hospital Matron Zoe Pooley with the special Phoenix comic Picture: Oxford Hospitals Charity

"It took a long time, but it really mattered to all of us to get it just right. We were all so pleased with the end result and hoped it would make a big difference.

"Then, early this March – with the pandemic restrictions all still in place - I had to take my son into the children’s hospital for an operation - the very same hospital I’d spent so much time researching.”

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Zoe Pooley, Children’s Hospital matron (pictured holding the magazine) said: "We absolutely adore this special version of The Phoenix.

“Children love it and their parents also have a good read.”

The Phoenix hospital comic

The Phoenix hospital comic

About 5,000 copies of comic have been printed and are being given to children.