- 1890-1948 (Creation)
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Lambert Memorial Hospital, a small voluntary cottage hospital, was built and endowed by Mrs Lambert of Sowerby (died 1897) to ‘supply medical and surgical aid and medicine for the sick and injured of Thirsk and neighbourhood’. The hospital opened in September 1890 and was governed by a Committee of Trustees and a House Committee. The honorary medical staff comprised the GPs of Thirsk and Sowerby and the hospital was under the general charge of a matron. There were five beds. Cases were admitted on the recommendation of the medical staff, and patients paid a weekly sum of money for maintenance, additional fees being paid to medical attendants by better-off patients. Accidents and emergencies were also taken and minor operations were performed. Examples of annual numbers of patients treated were 26 for the year ending September 1891, 34 for the year ending September 1893, 49 for 1908/9, 62 for 1917/18 and 50 for 1919/20. There were between 50 and 75 patients annually in the early 1920s.
In 1920 a scheme was adopted under which Thirsk Nursing Association’s nurses were accommodated at the hospital while carrying out district work under the supervision of the matron of the hospital, and were also available for use by the hospital itself. In 1929 arrangements were made with Thirsk and District Association of Hospital Contributors whereby members treated at the hospital had their fees paid by the association.
The hospital relied heavily on the contributions and support of the local community and additions and new facilities were possible only when special gifts or bequests were forthcoming. Donations by individuals and fundraising by local organisations paid for a hospital extension in 1928: the new additions comprised a children’s sun room, which was an extension of the existing ward on the east side of the hospital, and an extension to the west wing of the hospital, with a new entrance. With the completion of the extensions, an artificial sun lamp was purchased in February 1929. In 1933 a second hand X-ray apparatus was bought from Horton Institution and housed in a wooden building in the grounds. This was used until the late 1930s when it became out of date. Funds however were not forthcoming for its replacement until 1947-8. In 1937, facilities were further extended with the appointment of a dentist and a masseur.
Patient numbers increased in the late 1920s. There were 121 patients treated in the year ending September 1929, 131 in 1929/30, 102 in 1931/2, 111 in 1934/5. There were 18 beds in 1938, and three further beds were provided between 1938 and 1945.
When the hospital came under York ‘A’ Group Hospital Management Committee in 1948, it was noted that the hospital had ‘for some years been suffering from financial difficulties’ which left scope for much upgrading and re-equipping. In 1948-9 the hospital was redecorated, rewired, refurnished and re-equipped throughout. The mobile X-ray apparatus, ordered by the former committee, was installed. Staffing was improved and it was noted that ‘the hospital is now more fully and effectively used than for some years past’. There were 23 beds in 1949 and 260 patients were treated that year, both general medical and surgical cases and chronic sick. There were 1,824 attendances at casualty and 364 minor operations were performed. Physiotherapy treatments were also made available for in- and out- patients. In 1950-1 a number of specialist consultative out-patient clinics were established for the following specialties: general surgical; ear, nose and throat; gynaecological; and eye cases. School clinics were included. A radiologist also visited the hospital periodically. This major extension of services at the hospital, both for patients and for attending GPs, greatly strengthened its community role.
During the 1950s and 1960s the hospital treated between 200 and 300 in-patients each year and between 100 and 200 operations, mostly of a minor nature, were performed annually. Average daily occupancy of the 23 beds was around 17-19 in the early 1950s. Casualty admissions were 3,000-5,000 each year in the early 1950s, and around 1,200-1,500 annually in the late 1950s and early 1960s. There were over 1,000 attendances every year at the consultative out-patient clinics in the early 1960s.
In 1951-2 the adjoining house and grounds, 2 Chapel Street, was purchased for an expansion of facilities. The house was refurbished in 1952-3 and was used from 1953 to accommodate out-patient clinics to relieve the pressure on space in the main hospital.
A League of Friends was organised during 1956-7 and in the same year the General Nursing Council approved the affiliation of the hospital as an assistant nurse training school in conjunction with St Mary’s Hospital in York. Under the scheme, students gained experience of casualty work, out-patients departments and clinics at Lambert Memorial Hospital.
Improvements to the hospital premises and services continued to be made in the 1950s and 1960s. A new out-patients department was created at 2 Chapel Street after alterations in 1958-9, which also provided a new matron’s flat. An orthopaedic out-patients clinic was begun in 1959-60. The X-ray room was utilised by the ophthalmic clinic to provide space for two doctors at the clinic from 1961-2. The mortuary and operating theatre was improved the same year. In 1962-3 additional accommodation was provided to improve physiotherapy facilities.
A bequest from William Milner Thompson in 1964-5 allowed the extension and improvement of the men’s ward, which was completed during 1966 and opened in January 1967. The men’s ward had formerly contained eight beds but the space was too small: the new extensions allowed for eight beds in two bays plus two single cubicles and a day room, with more space round each bed. Sanitary facilities were at the same time modernised and upgraded. The following year a day room was added to the women’s ward.
The hospital had 23 beds in 1973 and an average daily occupancy of 18. There were 240 discharges and deaths in that year, with 1,864 out-patient attendances, and 3,272 attendances at casualty.
When the NHS was reorganised in 1974 Lambert Memorial Hospital passed out of the control of York and it was transferred to Northallerton Health District. It has remained a flourishing community hospital serving Thirsk and district.
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