Wiltshire Publications

Issue 492 – ‘Great pity if hospital is demolished’

AS questions continue to be raised over the future of the Westbury Hospital site, local historian and former member of Westbury’s health committee, Kathleen White, wants local people to remember the importance of the town’s hospital and the generosity of local people.

She said, “Many people are concerned as to the fate of Westbury Community Hospital when the new drop-in centre is opened. The original hospital was paid for by local people, and kept in good working condition for many years by them – this was before the PCT took over.
“It will be a great pity if the PCT decide to demolish this hospital, which in effect was built by local people.”
In the last issue of White Horse News, it was reported that local resident and president of the Westbury branch of the Royal British Legion, Eddie Bridges, called for a public meeting to consider the future of the hospital site when all the services are transferred to the new primary care development next year.
Kathleen White from Bratton has written a history of the hospital using both research and her own memories.
She explained that when the hospital was built in the 1920s – long before the NHS was created – it was thanks to the League of Friends and local people.
Kathleen said, “The Westbury Hospital League of Friends were the great fundraisers, and people used to give money towards it – there were collecting boxes and people went around with the collecting boxes.
“Most local people paid quite a lot of money towards keeping the hospital going. People wanted to keep it there – it was so useful and a wonderful place. The old hospital wasn’t anything near large enough.
“If you look round the village here in Bratton they all say, ‘We helped to pay for that hospital.’ We had a collection box here and we had to put our spare pennies in – and those pennies were worth something then.
“Even when the NHS came in, people were still paying in to various things – half of the things that were done there would not have been done without the League of Friends and the collections. It’s a completely local thing, with the League of Friends, and supported by the people.
“I attended the laying of the foundation stone by Lady Sybil Phipps in 1926, and therefore have always been an admirer of the work done there and the care taken of patients. For ten years I served on the health committee in Westbury, when the modernisation was discussed and acted on.”
NHS Wiltshire has confirmed that all the services currently provided at Westbury Hospital and Eastleigh Surgery will remain in place until the new Primary Care Development is ready at Westbury Leigh next year. Both the old sites will then be sold.
There are no plans to begin marketing the sites at any stage before the transfer of services is complete.
At a public meeting held to discuss the new health centre last year, residents were told that once the site had been vacated, the money saved will be reinvested into NHS services.
However, Kathleen White is keen to see the hospital used in the future for the purpose it has always been intended for. “Why couldn’t they make it into a receiving hospital for wounded soldiers?” she suggests. “Rather than pulling it down, it would serve a purpose.”