The History of the League of Friends of Lymington Hospitals 1912 - 2007
1912 - 1947 - The Early Years before the NHS
In 1912, although the local population was only 5000, several people to whom King Edward VII had been known personally decided a memorial should be created for him in the form of a local hospital. The estimated building costs were £600. The sum of money was raised by the efforts of volunteers. The speed of contribution was so
quick that by 1913 the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital had already opened.
Initially the hospital consisted of an emergency ward (1 bed), two four bedded wards, an operating theatre, an X-ray room (X-ray being in early development), a dispensary and a kitchen. The theatre had central heating whilst the wards had coal fires.
By 1919 the number of patients admitted per annum had risen to 167 on whom 49 operations had been carried out. By 1928 the number of patients had risen to 800. A further £2,200 was raised from the public to enlarge the wards and to provide a children’s ward. The private block was also built – financed by private funds.
By 1929 patient numbers had increased to over 1000 so consideration was given to the training of nurses and the provision of accommodation. A competition was
organised by the local people and a nurses’ home was built at a cost of £2,500.
Soon after this a wealthy American, a Mr Barkley Henry who was staying in the area was taken ill and treated at the Hospital. His wife Mary was treated at the Hospital as well, but she died soon after returning to America. In memory to his wife Mr Henry donated a new theatre, X-ray and Physiotherapy room.
1932 saw the need for further expansion so an Appeal for £5,000 was launched.
New surgical wards and offices were built, plus an updating completed of the
electrical and the central heating systems. The total cost was around £8,000 and the new wards were occupied just before the outbreak of WWII.
During WWII the Government built two temporary hutment wards (with three coke stoves down the middle of the wards). A Pathology Lab. was also built as a memorial to Mr de Mowbray, a Surgeon for many years at the Hospital.
In 1948 the Hospital joined the National Health Service and changed its name to Lymington Hospital.
The History of the Hospital once it became part of the NHS
1952 MARKED THE FORMATION OF THE LEAGUE OF FRIENDS
The mid 1960’s saw the number of inpatients rise to 2,246 using 95 beds. At 610 clinics a further 9,949 Outpatients were seen. To meet this demand the League of Friends furnished the new Outpatients unit.
In 1978 the League of Friends began an extended period of action to allow the existing hospital to meet the growing requirements of the local community. This was not only to secure the services provided by the old hospital but also, to ensure the long-term future of the hospital facilities.
During the same year the Regional Health Authority was responsible for a survey of the buildings. This revealed that the temporary hutment wards, erected just before the war, should have only been used for 10 years! The huts consisted of single thickness brick walls and asbestos-cement sheeting on the roofs. Although the buildings could stand for another 10 years it was considered uneconomic to spend further money on such sub-standard structures. The Casualty and Pathology Units were also condemned yet 22,460 patients were treated in Casualty in 1978/9.
Despite this report and the very definite expert opinion and advice of their own Surveyors, the Health Authority continued cosmetic work from time to time which from a casual internal inspection made these wards look quite reasonable. However, the true state of these 2 buildings, highlighted by the 1978 survey, had not been altered.
In 1979 a public meeting of the League of Friends discussed the findings of the Survey and concluded that in a time of cutbacks the hospital was at risk of closure. From this meeting a Steering Committee was formed to discuss the possibilities of a Public Appeal being launched to raise £150,000 to rebuild the Casualty Unit and Pathology Laboratory. The services of a professional fund-raiser were considered, but the League of Friends was unanimous that a small voluntary committee should organise the Appeal, under the direction of the Chairman. The Chairman of the League of Friends at the time was Mr Walter Symons, a local gentleman who had retired from the building trade. Mrs June Plank was appointed as Chair of the Hospital Appeal Trust. Both played a significant role by leading the Appeal and securing the long-term future of the Hospital. Without their efforts we would not have the modern local Hospital from which we all benefit today.
On 19th February 1980 the Appeal was officially launched. Public support greatly surpassed all expectations. At the launch it was stated that the Appeal would need to run for eighteen months to enable such a vast sum to be raised. Amazingly in just 169 days the Target figure of £150,000 was achieved.
On 6th August of that same year another public meeting was held. In a tightly packed hall the overriding consensus was that since the initial support had been so great, the Committee was to continue the Appeal for its scheduled time with any additional funds used to facilitate other much needed improvements.
The types of fund-raising were numerous and consisted of individual efforts, local organisations, collecting boxes and covenants etc. A Charity Shop that ran for 8 weeks towards the end of the Appeal averaged amazing weekly takings of £1,000 per week!
On 16th February 1981, a year to the day from the launch of the Appeal, the builders went on site.
On 8th May 1981 the plaque on the new building was unveiled by Dr Gerard Vaughan MP, Minister for Health.
On 21st December 1981 saw the official handing over of the new building to the Health Authority. All the money raised was wisely invested throughout the Appeal. Due to the volunteers efforts the overall administration expenses were just over only half a per cent. When the Appeal finally closed it had raised £366,641.12.
In addition to the new block the following were achieved:
A film library for the X-rays with enough storage for seven years of files
The X-ray department enlarged and upgraded.
The Theatre Suite improved and upgraded.
In 1982 the League of Friends started to encourage the Health Authority to fulfil their promise to build a new Ward Block to replace the War Emergency Wards built in 1939.
Walter Symons stated that the buildings, which were intended to last 10 years, were now in their 56th year! These wards provided 50 of 70 beds in the Hospital. Without satisfactory arrangements to replace this accommodation it would be the end of Lymington Hospital, the hospital that had been loved and valued for so many years.
The fund raising continued with thousands of pounds spent on beds, E.C.G’s, blood testing and a long list of other vital equipment. In addition to this expenditure the League accumulated a considerable amount, which was planned to contribute towards the proposed Ward Block.
In August 1986 the League of Friends were despairing of the Health Authority ever fulfilling their promise to rebuild the Wards, so much so that they appointed an Architect and Builders to build a new 96 bedded ward block at no cost to the NHS. Despite this offer the Authority continued to resist making a decision. At the time this was not helped by a reorganisation of the NHS.
Continued pressure by the League of Friends led to the appointment of a project team to research the problem and recommend the best way forward. Again, Mrs June Plank, Chairman of the Hospital Appeal Trust and Mr Walter Symons, Chairman of the Lymington Hospitals’ League of Friends both served on that project team. After much deliberation the final report and recommendations were submitted to the Trust Board, which after due consideration accepted the recommendations in full.
The project team considered that instead of rebuilding on the old site which was too small and overcrowded, it would be best to build a new purpose designed hospital to accommodate all current services included in the old Hospital, Infirmary and clinic accommodation. The new site was to give ample car parking with room left over for future possible expansion.
Without the Health Commission’s approval and backing Lymington and District were not likely to get a new Hospital. As the Southampton Health Commission was the main purchaser of health care for the whole area, it meant that without their backing the future of the Lymington Hospitals was doomed. The health care required for some 70,000 people in the Lymington Hospitals catchment area would have to be reallocated to either Southampton or Bournemouth. These two large General Hospitals would have been delighted, as under the National Health policy of the time it was decreed that the money followed the patient, so they would have received the cash, which should have come to Lymington. However this would have meant great inconvenience to patients and visitors living in the Lymington area and a loss of a great resource.
Over many years the Lymington Hospital League of Friends had worked very hard to raise funds to help replace the old and decayed wards at Lymington Hospital. Thanks to the wonderful generosity of the local community jointly with the substantial funds of around £200,000 still held by the Hospital Appeal Trust, the League was able to offer a contribution of £1.5m towards the cost of new replacement wards or better still a new Hospital.
Despite this The Health Commission still required proof that the people of Lymington and District really wanted a new Hospital. So once again Walter Symons and June Plank launched a campaign, arranged meetings and wrote to the local press to publicise the need for people to write in vast numbers to Southampton and South West Hampshire Health Commission to express support for a new Hospital.
It took 9 years (from 1996 to 2005) before works commenced at the current Ampress site! During this period the League of Friends actively sought a suitable site for the new Hospital on the basis they would provide the funds for the land if the Health Authority, via a Private Finance Initiative (PFI), would fund the building.
The Hospital was completed in 2006 and officially opened by Princess Anne on 6th February 2007.
Princess Anne was greeted by June Plank and Walter Symons at the opening of the Lymington New Forest Hospital.
Without the tireless effort and years of dedicated service from Walter Symons (Chairman of the League of Friends) and June Plank (Chair of the Hospital Appeal Trust), we would not have our new hospital today. Their extreme hard work, under very difficult circumstances, has undoubtedly helped countless individuals and families in our local community and beyond.