Wiltshire Publications

Hospital League of Friends to close after 60 years

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 5th, 2017 at 11:03 am.

WESTBURY & District League of Friends is to close. In a shock announcement, the group – which has supported the hospital and other health facilities for almost 60 years – says it hasn’t got enough committee members to continue.

Four long-standing trustees retired from the charity this year, leaving just nine committee members, resulting in the charity ‘no longer being able to carry out meaningful fundraising’.

Formed in the 1950s, the League of Friends raised over £1million for the Westbury Community Hospital before its closure in 2012. It then went on to raise thousands of pounds for health services in Westbury and surrounding districts.

Chair of the league, Erica Watson said, “Westbury and District League of Friends have sadly and reluctantly decided that the charity has to start the process of dissolution. Over the next few months the trustees will meet and with the advice of the Charity Commission, make decisions about where our remaining funds will be donated.

“Four of our longstanding trustees have retired this year and so  with only nine trustees left, we find it very hard to sustain any meaningful fundraising. Despite many attempts to recruit new members to our committee, nobody has been able to help us.

“The league was formed in the early 1950s to support and raise funds for the Westbury Community Hospital, which was closed in 2012. The league and the community fought very hard to save the hospital which had received over £1million in donations from the Westbury and surrounding area, and since its closure, the League of Friends has continued to fundraise to support identified health needs in the area.

“Some of the equipment which was purchased by the league is now being used in other Wiltshire hospitals and so Westbury and other towns’  patients may still benefit from the huge generosity of the Westbury area people.

“The Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group has recently announced that they plan to build a new hospital in the Trowbridge/Melksham /Chippenham area.  Westbury League of Friends feel saddened that our long record of  supporting health needs could not influence their decision to deny Westbury’s need for a second health care facility. We wonder how the cost of renovating Westbury’s existing hospital can be more costly than the planned new build. However, we can say very positively that we, and the community, did try our very best to keep a hospital which was much-used and served both Westbury and the surrounding districts with efficiency, professionalism and expertise for almost 60 years.

“It does seem such a shame that the NHS both nationally and locally do not recognise how a community can support their aims of ensuring a health service for local people especially when, now more than ever, they need the support of generous communities.

“Many of the community will remember our previous chairs – Phyllis Cundick, Maurice Jones and Jenny Clements – all of whom gave up countless hours of their free time for decades to lead the league in fundraising. Until the hospital closed we held an annual fete which proved a huge attraction to the town bringing visitors and celebrities to Westbury to supplement the NHS in providing care and equipment, but with its closure the focus for fundraising changed and many of Westbury’s increased population never knew the town when the hospital was here.

“For many years the league funded a respite care bed at the Bupa Nursing Home at a cost of over £20,000 per year and in the past decade, we have donated (thanks to the generous donations from the community here) over £120,000 to Alzheimer’s Support, enabling them to run a service in the town.

“The league also fund the rental costs for the Hearing Aid Clinic, held at the WHHC twice monthly, and have purchased surgical equipment so that patients can be treated in Westbury, rather than travelling to Bath or Salisbury.

“We have also donated several times to the Hope for Tomorrow mobile chemotherapy unit, which visits Westbury regularly.

“As well as the above donations, we have supported individuals with health care needs and groups such as the Whitehorse Children’s Centre, Stepping Stones,  Julia’s House, Wiltshire Air Ambulance, Westbury First Responders, Special Needs Dentistry Unit, Crosspoint, health visitors and school nursing, and funded the re -training of nurses made redundant when the hospital closed, as well as many other causes.

“I would like to take this opportunity firstly and most importantly to thank all those loyal supporters and many local businesses who have generously donated monies year after year, and secondly the committee members, both past and present, who have given up so many hours of their free time over many years – without them the league could not have survived for so many years.”

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