President’s report for the League of Friends’ 51st Annual General Meeting
Thursday 22nd March 2017 at 2000
Members of the League of Friends and guests, it is a pleasure as always to welcome you to the Annual General Meeting of the Buckingham Hospital League of Friends, and tonight this is our 51st such meeting. And we especially welcome David Williams from BHT, Director of Strategy and Business Development, who has stood in at the last moment for Carolyn Morrice, the Chief Nurse.
At our 50th meeting this time last year, I explained how we were eagerly looking forward to celebrating the 50th year of the League’s founding, remembering the famous meeting at the Town Hall on May 31st 1967 when the hospital was in dire straits and faced with closure, how the idea of a League of Friends was put forward, and then the first meeting of the League on July 19th 1967 when the constitution was passed and the first committee was set up.
We had thought of a few possibilities about how to celebrate this anniversary, including an afternoon tea party at the Community Centre in June, but these never came to fruition, and later in the year it began to look as if the 50-year landmark might slip by unnoticed. A dinner was then considered and then a Saturday coffee morning possibly with our MP, Mr John Bercow, in attendance.
However, nothing definite was ever arranged although at the same time we were trying to contact someone from The Buckingham Advertiser to write a feature about the League. The Advertiser continued to prove elusive until I was put in touch with Mr. Ryan Watts, a trainee reporter, who eventually wrote a very well-balanced piece about us which was published on Friday 13th October. And at the same time while still trying to publicise the League and the anniversary, we pledged our support to Buckingham’s Festival of Health that was being arranged for the second week of November.
On the final day of the Festival, we had a stand at an event in the Community Centre when we were able to both promote our work for the hospital and our anniversary – and I’m grateful to those committee members who offered to be present on the stand, and particularly to Charlotte Brown who did the art work for the posters that were displayed.
And as a tangible reminder of the anniversary, we bought and installed a replacement garden bench, suitably inscribed, at the top of the drive outside the doors to the ward for either exhausted visitors who might have struggled up the drive or for inpatients seeking fresh air and a crafty fag!
So, our 50th year has passed and what have we done otherwise in addition to these somewhat muted celebrations? We funded the purchase of a visual field analyser for the ophthalmic outpatients, as well as other pieces of expenditure which the treasurer will tell you about shortly, but I think our main “non-anniversary activities” have been related to the local medico-political scene and various “planned developments”.
Firstly, community hubs. Four of us from the League’s committee and a GP representative from the Swan Practice visited Marlow and Thame Hospitals last July to view the pilot scheme that had been set up there and which, most significantly, had meant the closure of the in-patient beds. And a number of us participated in the half day event at the Community Centre on 24th January this year about what a community hub in Buckingham might look like.
Secondly, Lace Hill. I won’t say too much about this as Dr. George Gavriel will be giving us a presentation shortly but in my report to last year’s AGM, I did pose the question, reflecting on the events of 1967, “is the hospital in dire straits again and could it be facing closure?” I said that the League was “keeping a wary eye on developments at Lace Hill” and that there could be scope for “a new hospital or health centre there.”
I pondered what this site here could be worth to a developer and suggested that, while the Rt. Hon. J. G. Hubbard, the founder of the original Buckingham Hospital in 1887, might well turn in his grave if he knew what possibly lay in the future for the hospital, there could be “exciting developments ahead.”
Together with my erstwhile senior partner at the old Corner House practice in West Street and then at North End Surgery, Dr. Chris Brown, we met George and the Business Development Manager at The Swan Practice, Mrs. Debbie Ratu, at the beginning of February on behalf of the League and we came away mightily impressed with the plans for the new Lace Hill development. In my report for the League’s recent annual newsletter, I expressed my thoughts, and my reasoning why I rather reluctantly concluded that the days of this place were almost certainly numbered.
And having attended the inaugural meeting of the Swan Practice Lace Hill Focus Group on Tuesday evening with Chris, Carol and Stephen, I am even more firmly convinced that the development not only will go ahead but has to go ahead. I think that over the next 12-18 months, while the League’s committee will keep an open mind about the future of the hospital building, we do need to be considering our stance which will depend very much, obviously, on BHT’s plans for the building.
If the hospital is threatened in any way, there will be the inevitable calls to “save our hospital” and petitions and letters to The Advertiser etc. but we have to decide whether we would actively campaign for the hospital to stay open as it is now providing the same level of care, to retain it in a modified form offering some sort of healthcare provision – perhaps as the centre for a community hub – or concede that all healthcare in this building will cease.
We can get sentimental about the building itself but I think our primary focus as a League must be “staff and patients” in whatever form that may be – NHS in-patients at the proposed care home replicating what is here, perhaps the staff here working at the new care home – and as George said to me, it is “services” and not “estate”. There are a number of possibilities and the next year or two will be very interesting!
I live in another county, so the changes will not affect me as a patient but if I was in this area, and as I approach my dotage, I would much rather be treated by George and his colleagues in a modern state of the art, centre of excellence.
So enough from me except to say my usual thanks to the officers of the League – Sheila and John, our secretary and treasurer respectively, and Mrs Margaret Clarke, the membership secretary – and to all the committee for their work during the year. A special mention for Mrs. Josie Jerrams who resigned from the committee after many, many years of service, to thank her and to say that she will be missed – and to Mrs Carol Penny whom we heard only today wishes to resign as she is becoming overburdened with her involvement in various organisations – thus two vacancies currently for committee members.
We are still short of a chairman / chairperson – my thanks to Stephen Long and Frank Donlon for chairing our committee meetings in the interim – and we are going to lose our treasurer in the not too distant future. So, I invite anyone to step forward if they would like to join the committee, look after our finances or even be chairman.
Thanks to all the staff at the hospital, clinicians, administrators, support staff etc. for the wonderful work they do for both in-patients and the out-patients. If ever the phrase “watch this space” was apposite, it must be now.
Dr Roger Harrington
22nd March 2018