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From Soap, Shampoo and Sheds to Bats, Shops and Robots

In 1940 Broomfield Hospital was built as a sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis patients, whose hospital stay could be anything between 6 months to about four years. Towards the end of the second world war 50 per cent of the patients were ex-servicemen.  In 1949 a small group of philanthropic people got together to provide small comforts to these patients who were often a long way from home and family. They did whatever they could to make the patient’s lives a little more comfortable, giving soap, shampoos and other small gifts.

This small group grew and in 1957 they were first registered as a charity whose only aim was to support Broomfield Hospital.  The aim and indeed the charity is still the same today. The membership grew, as more people volunteered to help. The group then decided to open a shop which operated out of a small shed at the front of the ward block (near where the mortuary is now). They sold sweets, drinks etc to the visitors and staff and the shop was manned entirely by volunteers, with all profits continuing to purchase small comforts for the patients.

Over the years the profit from this trading grew to such an extent that small items of much needed equipment began to be purchased by the Friends, a trolley service was set up to visit patients, then later a library service. A larger shop was opened in the ward block with a second one opening in the Atrium many years later. Larger and larger pieces of equipment were purchased as the years went on, and trading in the busy shops increased ,supported by patients, staff,  and visitors.

All the staff were volunteers and continue to be so, which enables all profits generated to be used for the Hospital.  The Friends give on average £50k to £60k in grants every year, responding to requests that come directly from the Trust. These requests vary from medical equipment, grants to enhance the environment both inside and outside the hospital (hence the bats),  grants to support the staff and of course grants to help the patients so they have a positive experience whilst in hospital,  including toiletry bags, grants to the dignity project for clothing, the enhancing of day rooms, gardens and artworks.

Our only purpose then and now, is to support Broomfield Hospital. This what we do. Providing refreshments at events, funding the  extras for the hospital that cannot be funded by normal exchequer funding, taking an active part in the life of the hospital by  providing extras at Christmas, and most important of all showing a friendly, non clinical face to patients in what can be a most challenging and stressful environment.

Over the last ten years we have purchased larger and more  complex pieces of equipment, and are often the key to services being able to progress quickly into new areas. We gave almost £40k to the Stroke service to purchase a machine to monitor swallowing in patients who have had a stroke. We have also just donated £50k towards the new surgical robot at Broomfield, a remarkable development for our hospital.

We make small grants as well, bladder scanners, new chairs, the upgrading of day rooms, gardens and even a new fridge for a busy department,  all of these requests come via the hospital and are checked to make sure they are needed, have funds allocated for any training and maintenance required and most important of all will benefit the patients and staff.

All of this is only possible because of our volunteers, who give their time freely and willingly to support our work, and we can only continue our work because of them.

The hours donated by these unsung heroes is truly remarkable they all  ensure that we continue to support this wonderful hospital, and long may it continue for the next 70 years.

If you would like to be involved, we always need more volunteers , so if you would like help, please click here or telephone us on 01245 443285.

“The Friends – Supporting your hospital, supporting you”