Happy 30th birthday Bridlington Hospital

Bridlington Hospital is 30
Bridlington Hospital is 30

Monday was the 30th anniversary of the first patients being admitted to Bridlington Hospital.

Built at a cost of £16million, on land thought to have been donated to the town on a covenant by Major George Wright, who owned the nearby Bessingby Hall, it had 220 beds when it first opened its doors.

Bridlington Hospital.

Bridlington Hospital.

It now has around a quarter of that number.

When the hospital opened on Saturday March 5, 1988, it was heralded as ‘the biggest single step forward ever taken in the provision of health care to the famous seaside resort’.

It had nine wards on two floors, as well as an operating theatre and day hospital accommodation for the elderly and people with mental health conditions.

It also boasted a rehabilitation department, a minor injuries unit, X-ray facilities and a six-bed coronary monitoring unit.

People queued to get a first look around the hospital

People queued to get a first look around the hospital

An information sheet given out about the opening of the building said it had already ‘established for itself a reputation for treating more patients, introducing new specialities to the town and cutting waiting lists across the board’.

It added that the modern facilities centralised on one site meant ‘fewer patients need to be transferred out of the resort than in the past’.

Three decades on, critics would argue more people than ever are having to travel further afield for their treatment.

A report in the Free Press on March 10, 1988, said the opening day at the hospital had gone without a hitch.

A petition to save services at the hospital reached Downing Street in 2008

A petition to save services at the hospital reached Downing Street in 2008

The report said: Shortly after breakfast, patients from the town’s three other hospitals - Lloyd, The Avenue and Bempton Lane - were shuttled up to the new £16m complex in Bessingby Road.

By dinnertime, over 30 people were safely tucked up in the hospital, which has all the latest hi-tech equipment.

Hospital manager Mr Peter Flood said the whole operation had gone smoothly, although the authorities were prepared for the worst if bad weather closed in.

He said: “We could have kept the other three hospitals open, so it wouldn’t have been any great problem. But that really would have been the last resort.”

Union representative Steve Holliday and Cllr Ray Allerston hand in a petition at Downing Street in March 2008.

Union representative Steve Holliday and Cllr Ray Allerston hand in a petition at Downing Street in March 2008.

There was even a photograph of the first patients to arrive, William Bragg and Susan Harvey, who were pictured in their beds being presented with commemorative tankards by staff.

An estimated 5,000 people headed to look around the new building at a public open day and pictures show huge queues of residents waiting for their first glimpse of the facilities.

The first baby to be born at the new site was Louise Fabin.

The hospital had been in the pipeline for more than 40 years. When it eventually became a reality, it brought together the facilities from Bridlington’s three existing sites.

Some services from East Riding General at Driffield also transferred to Bridlington.

Lloyd Hospital in the town centre had been operating for more than a century, and Avenue Hospital - which was home to maternity facilities - had its roots back to 1714.

A protest march in the summer of 2008

A protest march in the summer of 2008

Bempton Lane was a former infectious diseases hospital but none of the three had been purpose-designed for modern medicine, although health bosses admitted each of them had ‘developed an important place in local people’s 
affections over many years’.

In a bid to main links with the past, two of the wards at the new hospital took the names Lloyd and Avenue.

Johnson Ward was named after aviatrix Amy Johnson and Buckrose Ward acknowledged a 12th Century district of the East Riding.

The remaining wards, Waters, Holtby, Kent, Thornton and Alderson were all named after distinguished medical and civic figures associtaed with Bridlington.

More than a year after it welcomed its first patients, the Duchess of Gloucester officially opened the hospital in May 1989.

But the 30th anniversary of Bridlington Hospital sees further concerns about its future.

Waters Ward closed permanently before Christmas, and although the site will be home to a new Urgent Care Centres, which will be open 16 hours a day to treat cuts, burns and simple fractures, community beds in the Macmillan Wolds Unit which offers end-of-life care are set to move to East Riding Community Hospital in Beverley.

MP Sir Greg Knight is holding meetings with hospital bosses to voice his worries, but he has already said: “I am very concerned about the emerging pattern of unelected health officials seemingly hellbent on stripping services from smaller local hospitals and centralising them at larger hospitals - usually much further away from where people in rural communities live.”

The situation was no better for the hospital’s 20th anniversary.

In March 2008, the Free Press accompanied union representatives and then mayor, the late Cllr Ray Allerston, to Downing Street to present a petition with 38,168 signatures.

That was to try to save the hospital’s cardiac monitoring unit - the biggest campaign in Bridlington in living memory.

It followed a protest march involving 3,000 people in the town to try to get bosses to keep the heart unit open.

Despite the efforts of the community, in September of that year, it was announced that the unit and two other acute medical wards would be transferred to Scarborough next month.

It followed the news maternity services were being withdrawn.

What will the next 10 years bring?

•Send us your memories of the early days of Bridlington Hospital.

Whether you were a member of staff or a patient, or if you have a notable connection to the building.

Email john.edwards@jpress.co.uk or call John on 07803 506517.

Coverage of the opening of the hospital

Coverage of the opening of the hospital