The first Community Hospital in the UK – Wallingford Community Hospital – is helping to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Community Hospital Association.

The hospital has been through many changes over the years having opened when Queen Victoria was still on the throne and provided care through two world wars. Originally called ‘Wallingford and District Cottage Hospital’, the facility opened in 1880 and became part of the NHS in 1948 under Reading and District Hospital Management Committee.

It transferred to Oxfordshire Area Health Authority in 1974, when the site was expanded to include the first purpose built and designed community hospital in the country.

This new model of Cottage Hospital was described as an extension of primary care, and a new concept which integrated primary care and secondary care with a wider range of services and facilities.

Now, as one of Oxford Health’s six community hospitals in the county, which provide eight wards between them, Wallingford provides vital physical and mental health services for the local population. It houses 16 in-patient beds, maternity unit run by Oxford University Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust, adult mental health services, day hospital, physiotherapy, podiatry, as well as serving as a base for District Nursing Services covering Wallingford, Benson, Goring, as well as Community Therapy Services.

There are now over 500 community hospitals across the UK. The trust has other community hospitals at, Witney, Didcot, Bicester, Abingdon and Oxford.

 

A fixture of local healthcare

Lucy Wells, Oxford Health’s Head of Community Hospitals, said: “Wallingford has been a fixture of local healthcare for many years and I am delighted that it is still going strong and helping to raise the profile of community hospitals and celebrating the CHA’s 50th year.

“Wallingford has moved with the times and continues to provide a range of services that help to enhance people’s lives and help them to live happier and healthier lives. It does feel quite special to know that Wallingford was the first of its kind and that there are now more than 500 community hospitals across the UK.

“Of course the hospital would be nothing without its fantastic staff and Friends who work so hard all year round and I am pleased to take this opportunity to thank them.”

Dr Helen Tucker, President of the Community Hospitals Association, said: “Wallingford Hospital was the first hospital that signalled the change from “cottage hospital” to “community hospital.

“Drs Rue and Bennet in Oxfordshire in the 1970s developed the concept of this new model of integrated care, increasing the scope and provision of services by small local hospitals. Wallingford Hospital was inspirational, and paved the way for community hospitals today.”

A fantastic place to work

Julie Beardmore, Matron for Wallingford, Didcot & City Community Hospitals, said: “I am very proud of the team at Wallingford community hospital. They play a vital role in the rehabilitation of patients and complex discharge planning, delivering high quality care and research-based practice based on meeting the needs of our individual patients. Partnership working with patients and their families is key to achieve the outcomes that are important to them.”

Andy Armsby Ward Manager, explained: “St Leonard’s ward is a fantastic place to work, I’m proud to have an amazing team of nurses, health care assistants and therapy staff who work here providing excellent care for local people to come here receive on going rehabilitation following illness or assessment prior to going home or to an ongoing placement.

“Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has thrown up everyone is still working really hard to give patients the best possible care and services. I am proud to work with such a committed group of people.”

Amongst friends

Hospital staff are one force that helps the hospital go from strength to strength, but there’s another group of people who also make a massive contribution.

The Wallingford Community Hospital League of Friends charity was founded in 1953 to support and promote the work of the hospital and has raised funds to provide much needed equipment and comforts for the benefit of patients and staff. In March they donated new hifi equipment for the St Leonards therapy ward day room. Their fundraising also paid for new exercise equipment in the Physiotherapy department to help people with Parkinsons.

As well as buying specific items the League of Friends also provides ongoing funding for maintenance of the quadrangle gardens and organises a party for the patients at Christmas.

Kate Eveleigh, chair of the League of Friends, said: “The hospital is an important part of a community and helps when people are in particular need and the Friends exist to help enhance and support the work that goes on there.

“Wallingford Community Hospital has been here for 140 years and has helped countless people in lots of ways in that time. Many of the League of Friends have a personal connection with the hospital or the NHS and together we work hard to raise funds to supplement what the NHS can provide and add value to the lives of the patients and staff.

“What we do wouldn’t be possible without the support of individuals and organisations in the local community and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed over the years.”