Kettering General Hospital celebrates its 120th birthday

The hospital's first children's ward opened with 20 cots in 1920
The hospital's first children's ward opened with 20 cots in 1920

Kettering General Hospital is celebrating its 120th birthday today (Monday, October 30).

Over that time the hospital has supported the healthcare needs of millions of local people from the cradle to the grave.

A doctor at work at KGH in the 1960s

A doctor at work at KGH in the 1960s

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Today a symbolic birthday cake is being cut by KGH chairman Alan Burns and interim chief executive, Fiona Wise, to be shared with staff.

Staff are also receiving anniversary birthday cards and boxes of chocolates which are being distributed to trust’s wards and departments.

Kettering General Hospital’s deputy director of human resources, Susanna Newing, is organising the celebrations.

Nurses at work at KGH in the 1960s

Nurses at work at KGH in the 1960s

She said: “We wanted to take a few moments out of the working day to recognise the efforts that have been made by generations of KGH staff to serve their local community over the past 120 years.

“Today our 3,800 staff – in their many different teams – work together to support local people through illness and injury throughout their lives.

“The hospital – as it is now – has undergone an amazing transformation and is now almost unrecognisable from its humble beginnings.

“For example when the hospital opened on October 30, 1897, it had only 22 beds – now it has 574 inpatient beds and 49 maternity beds.

The hospital's car park and site c1960s

The hospital's car park and site c1960s

“The hospital started on a budget of just over £1,000 for a year – which included all staff wages. It now spends £250m per year on providing patient care.

“In 1897 we had about 10 nurses and a matron – we now have more than 1,000 nurses and healthcare assistants.”

Kettering General Hospital medical director Dr Andrew Chilton said: “In my lifetime I have seen tremendous advances in all aspects of health care and there are many great examples of these at KGH.

“Our cardiac centre is now routinely performing heart procedures which previously would have required open heart surgery at specialist centres.

The original 1894 architect's impression of what the new Kettering Hospital would look like ' image courtesy of local architects Gotch, Saunders and Surridge  (now GSS Architecture)

The original 1894 architect's impression of what the new Kettering Hospital would look like ' image courtesy of local architects Gotch, Saunders and Surridge (now GSS Architecture)

“We have spearheaded national screening initiatives – such as the bowel and breast screening programmes – which save lives every year by enabling us to diagnose cancers earlier.

“Our orthopaedic teams carry out joint replacement operations which enable hundreds of older people to remain active for many more years than would previously have been possible.

“Modern advances also mean our medical, surgical and diagnostic teams can effectively treat many more conditions and enable people to go home much more quickly, and to a better quality of life, than ever before.”

Kettering General Hospital director of nursing and quality Leanne Hackshall said: “While many things have changed in healthcare there are some things that always stay the same.

“The hospital’s nursing and healthcare assistant teams provide the individual care that our patients appreciate most when they are often feeling at their most vulnerable.

“Providing that individual and high-quality care remains a top priority at KGH and is incorporated in our current CARE values initiative.”

The hospital from above in 2015

The hospital from above in 2015

KGH chairman Alan Burns said: “I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our front-line – and support staff – for the work they do day in and day out to support local people’s healthcare needs.

“At times like this it is worth reflecting on the tremendous overall contribution to its community that KGH provides, often supporting local people through some of the most difficult times in their lives.”

Some landmarks in KGH’s history

1880s – The case for a general hospital in Kettering was discussed at the Local Board and by Kettering and District Nursing Association

1891 – At a general town meeting the people of Kettering decided they needed a general hospital. They decided that funds should be raised and a General Committee should take the matter in hand. Northampton already had a general hospital that had opened in 1743 but it was 15 miles away at a time largely before motorised transport.

1894 – By now the Hospital Planning Committee was under way and local architects Gotch and Saunders were employed to produce plans and an artist’s impression of the building

1895 – Fundraising, donations and subscriptions enable work to start in October of that year on the clinic buildings which front Rothwell Road

1897 – On October 30 the Right Honourable CR Spencer formally opened the hospital and there were general celebrations in the town with a band and bell ringing by the parish church. The hospital has 22 beds – including some private beds – in separate wards for men and women. It also has a kitchen, dining room and mortuary and upstairs there were sleeping quarters for the matron, nurses and servants, an operating room and bathrooms. A total of 120 operations were carried out over the first two years.

1920 – The first children’s ward – with 20 cots – was created as the Frank Berrill Ward. By now the hospital had 75 beds.

July 5, 1948 – the National Health Service is created. By now KGH has 129 beds, two operating theatres and five nursing sisters.

1960s – A flurry of building works to address the growing local population – now 140,000. This included a nine-storey nursing home (Thorpe House), outpatient department, A&E, X-ray department, pharmacy, boiler house and medical records.

1962 – Kettering General Hospital becomes the first district general hospital in England to open an intensive care unit under Dr Gerrard Crocket. It had four beds.

1970s – Work began on a six-storey main ward block (still the main ward block) in 1971 and was completed in 1976. The new Rockingham Wing opened in 1977 as the hospital’s new maternity and gynaecology department, and the Post Graduate Education Centre opened in 1976.

1980s – New theatres were built for ENT, eye, oral and maxillo-facial surgery

1990s – The day case unit was built and a new A&E department in 1993 with the Frank Radcliffe Fracture Clinic in 1995.

2000 – The Centenary Wing opened to its first patients following a four-year fundraising campaign with the support of the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph. In 2002 the hospital got its first MRI scanner and in 2003 the £1m Jubilee Wing opened for dermatology patients.

2007 - The £18m Treatment Centre opened in full to provide a state-of-the-art location for day surgery and a home for the hospital’s breast service on April 2.

2008 – KGH becomes a Foundation Trust and establishes a representative Council of Governors and recruits 5,000 public and staff members. It also opened the £4.7m Cardiac Centre and treated more than 3,000 local people with heart problems in the first year.

2010 – Start of ground work on the £30m new Foundation Wing which houses a new children’s ward, cardiac care wards, and intensive care unit. The wing was open to its first patients in April 2013.

2016- Completed a £5m refurbishment of the maternity unit including building two new maternity theatres and associated recovery areas.

2017 – Each year the hospital now performs some 14,000 operations, sees 84,000 people a year in A&E, supports 3,711 births, has 81,000 inpatient admissions and hosts 275,000 outpatient appointments.

The cake was cut by chairman Alan Burns and interim chief executive Fiona Wise surrounded by staff from the wards

The cake was cut by chairman Alan Burns and interim chief executive Fiona Wise surrounded by staff from the wards