How do you move a hospital?
It is difficult enough to move house, imagine moving a whole hospital! This year, 2023, we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the final closure of Salisbury General Infirmary, Newbridge and transfer of all city hospital services to the new buildings at Odstock hospital site – then to become Salisbury District Hospital. Equipment, beds, staff and patients all made the move in 10 days of January 1993.
Below are photographs and an interview with Commissioning Project Lead, Gwyn Blenkinsop.
How long in the making had the project been?
The preliminary planning work was initiated in 1986 and the project completed in 1993.
What was your role in the changes that took place?
In 1987, as the District Planning nurse, I became a member of the SDH design team working closely with the architects, engineers and contractors. When the building was handed over to the then health authority in 1991 I was asked to take over as the Project lead for the management of all aspects of the Commissioning of the new build: its opening, and the subsequent transfer of all services from the city to the Odstock site. This included a comprehensive programme of lectures on the management of change and preparatory training for all hospital staff outlining the detail of the schedule for the transfer of services. There was also a full PR exercise involving all appropriate transport organisations in and around the city.
Photo details: left to right
Aerial view of Salisbury District Hospital, dating mid 1980s, you can see the nissen huts on the middle left which will be demolished to make way for the new building. This view is before the new access road is constructed for Entrance A.
Aerial view of Salisbury District Hospital from the north side. This shows the enabling works (clearing the nissen huts and construction of the new roads to Entrance A) before the construction started on the main building.
Aerial view of Salisbury District Hospital, mid construction of the new building, dating 27th July 1989.
Aerial view of Salisbury District Hospital, post 1993 showing the completed new building and car parking to the rear of the site.
What benefits did the change bring?
The main benefits were that the staff and public of Salisbury and district were given access to new, purpose built state of the art health care facilities, with all services available under one roof on one site. There were more single rooms available for sick patients with instant access to emergency speciality units/services. There was a huge increase in public car parking facilities.
Were local people supportive of the change?
Members of the hospital commissioning team along with a full scale model of the new hospital presented over 350 road shows both in Salisbury City and its surrounding villages. The major concern of most in general was however not the hospital itself, but what car parking and public transport facilities were available.
Photo details: left to right
Architects model showing the aerial view of new buildings planned at Salisbury District Hospital. This is now on permanent display on the level 2 corridor near Nunton Entrance. Dating from 1980s.
Close up of architects model showing the ambulance ramp for Accident & Emergency.
Commissioning document with questions answered about the new hospital site. This was taken to community consultation events during the progress of the construction.
Front view along Fisherton Street of Salisbury General Infirmary shortly before closing in January 1993.
Aerial view of Newbridge Hospital which was sited near the ambulance station (now housing estate Senior Drive!) This hospital site closed with the development of the new District Hospital. Wards were know as A, B, C & D (Alderbury, Barford, Coombe & Downton.
First diggers and construction along the access road from Entrance A at Salisbury District Hospital, mid 1980s
Gwyn Blenkinsop looking out over the construction site , pictured from the rooftops near level 5 Education, dating late 1980s. You can still see the last of the nissen huts next to the steel work and crane for the new building.
Group of images showing the construction of Entrance A at Salisbury District Hospital, dating mid 1980s, looking down from the Odstock to Salisbury Road.
Group of images showing the construction of Entrance A at Salisbury District Hospital, dating mid 1980s, looking up from hospital site. The old water tower was cleared to make way for new road system.
Tell us about the Open days.
I remember vividly the occasion of planned open days for visits to the new building. These took place in December between Christmas and the New Year in 1992. Over 2 days, 1,700 people came through the doors. We advertised this event in the local papers, on local radio and on public transport and offered free transport to and from Salisbury for the occasion using the heading, “WOULD YOU LIKE TO SPEND SOME TIME IN HOSPITAL THIS CHRISTMAS?”
Photo details: left to right
Members of the public were invited to visit the new hospital, between Christmas and New year of December 1992, shortly before opening. Over 1770 people looked around wards and surgical theatres. Front and back of promotional leaflet advertising open days.
New meets old photograph shows the construction of the link bridge which was created to join the new buildings to the existing WW2 single story buildings.
Image taken from the roof of Salisbury District Hospital main entrance showing the fleet of removal vans required to transport equipment from Salisbury General Infirmary to the new hospital. Dated January 1993.
Mountains of packing crates used to move equipment and files from the Infirmary to new District Hospital.
What exactly happened in January 1993?
The new Salisbury District Hospital (SDH) on the old Odstock Hospital site became fully operational in late January 1993. This major change brought about was the transfer of all patients, staff, equipment and services from the Salisbury General Infirmary (SGI) in Fisherton Street, Newbridge Hospital, Newbridge (opposite the ambulance station) and the School of Nursing from Crane Street in Salisbury city. In addition, a number of Odstock based wards & departments including the operating theatres & Main Kitchens were closed and services transferred into the new building. The major SGI move to the Odstock site commenced at 6am on Friday 15th January 1993 and was completed 15 days later on Saturday 30th January. The Pathology and Wessex Genetics Laboratory services were transferred to the new building in April 1992 prior to the main move.
What was your most vivid memory of that time?
One late November afternoon in 1992, I received a telephone call from the Health Authority Chairman, asking me if we could bring the transfer programme forward 3 months from the scheduled April 1993 to January 1993. This meant that we had to alert all individuals, groups, services and organisations involved that we now had just 7 weeks before the planned move. This was not made any easier by the fact we had Xmas and the New Year right in the middle. It was agreed, and thanks to the fantastic hard work and commitment from the then commissi0ning team, the hospital managers and staff involved the whole exercise was completed most successfully.
Did it all go smoothly?
My final memory moment was that following the transfer the Accident & Emergency service from the SGI to their new department in SDH at 6am on Wednesday January 20th 1993, we had our first opportunity to test the major fire alarm protocol agreed when at 7-35 am I was alerted that the departments fire alarm had been activated. Upon my arrival, followed quickly by members of the Salisbury Fire Brigade, we found that a member of staff when making their breakfast had positioned the toaster immediately below a smoke detector!
Photo details: left to right
Transferring the last patient from Radnor Ward (ICU) at Salisbury General Infirmary on 20th January 1993 to the new Salisbury District Hospital. There was only one small lift in the building and all the beds and equipment had to be moved through narrow corridors and packing crates.
The last SGI patient arriving at Salisbury District Hospital, being transferred to the new Radnor Ward (ICU) on 20th January 1993.
What happened to the disused buildings after the move?
The old SGI, Newbridge Hospital and the School of Nursing buildings were sold for property development. The vacated buildings on the Odstock site were boarded up to await further use or for demolition.
Photo detail above: Formal ceremony to lock up the Infirmary for the final time on 25th January 1993. Pictured are Maurice Tryhorn (who was the longest serving member of SGI staff) and Marlene Lucas (Maternity staff member who won the prize to lock the doors in a raffle).
Watch video footage of the move in 1993