When the builders finished the last bit of work at Stamford Hospital on Friday last week, the 170 staff that are based there breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Not because the building work being carried out by Ayres and Gardner had been making their life a misery - quite the opposite - but because the work they’d carried out, amounting to £2m of redevelopment, had been years in the making.
The Peterborough and Stamford Hospital NHS Trust, now known as the North West Anglia NHS Trust following a merger with Hinchingbrooke Hospital, first muted the idea of a redevelopment for the hospital not long after matron and site manager Sue Brooks joined the hospital nine years ago.
Before the redevelopment much of the hospital was either unused or the facilities were not up to modern standards with staff working in cramped conditions.
But now the staff all have huge smiles on their faces - in particular the X-ray booking and imaging department. The team of 10, who book appointments for the whole area, are currently in a tiny office but next week will move into a huge purpose built room, which the staff told the Mercury would make for a more efficient service and a better working life.
The biggest difference to patients, according to Sue, is the new phlebotomy area. No longer do patients have to sit in corridors waiting for their bloods to be taken - there is now a new waiting room, accessed by a separate entrance, with improved clinical areas. The waiting area is adorned with artwork kindly donated by local artist Sam Jarvis.
And a new MRI scanner was also installed in January, representing the first phase of the three-phase redevelopment. This scanner represents one of the biggest investments - a brand new unit which was craned over the wall from the Morrisons supermarket car park next door, and a new access walkway. It will see up to 8,000 patients a year - patients who previously would have to travel to Peterborough City Hospital, running appointments five days a week from 8am until the evening.
Sue said MRIs were quickly becoming an “important diagnostic tool” being used more frequently.
A second ultrasound machine set to arrive later this year will also double the capacity.
But according to Sue, there are many small changes that have made a huge difference to the atmosphere at the hospital. New lighting and flooring has been installed in the corridors, leading patients visiting the hospital to incorrectly believe the corridors have been widened. The reception area has been modernised, meaning that as soon as patients walk through the main reception doors they can see the changes.
The pain management department formerly in the old part of the hospital has been moved and reconfigured, offering a bigger reception area which people using mobility aids like wheelchairs are able to access more easily. For staff, it means more interaction between back-office staff and clinicians and being closer to their colleagues, making for a more sociable atmosphere.
In the physiotherapy department, previously patients saw staff in curtained off areas but now there are individual cubicles, increasing patients’ privacy and dignity.
A new chemotherapy and lymphoedema suite has been installed with lead nurse for lymphoedema Rosie Collcott moving her team from the Robert Horrell site in Peterborough to the hospital.
The community health clinic, known as Clinic A which offers podiatry, community physiotherapy and leg ulcer treatments, has been refurbished, while a new outpatient department has been added, enabling up to 40 more surgeries a week with consultants and specialist nurses visiting from Peterborough City Hospital.
“It means that patients can be treated closer to home which makes a big difference,” said Sue.
The Friends of Stamford Hospital has also been extremely supportive of the project, donating a number of items to help improve the hospital further including toys for the paediatric area due to open later this year.
But Sue believes that despite the huge changes that have taken place, many people do not realise the breadth of services being offered at the site in Ryhall Road. It sees more than 110,000 patients a year from across the Mercury area, including Rutland, Bourne and Market Deeping, but is home to just one inpatient ward - the 22-bed John Van Geest Ward.
“The John Van Geest Ward is of course very important, but it is just a small part of what we do here - there are a whole raft of important services that mean so much.
“I think people want their healthcare closer to home, and the refurbishments that have taken place here at Stamford Hospital enable that without the difficulty of transport which can be particularly challenging in rural areas.”
Sue praised her staff and volunteers at the hospital for being “patient, positive and flexible” during the building works and continuing with business as usual.
“Staff have been very positive, particularly having to wait so long for these changes and they’ve demonstrated their professionalism throughout, I couldn’t be prouder.”
She jokingly admitted to missing the builders now they’d vacated the site, adding: “It’s so quiet now and it was nice to have a bit of banter with them!”
She also praised the builders from Ayres and Gardner for “always being mindful that it was a hospital site” and for engaging with patients and staff.
Sue added: “The feedback so far from patients has been amazing - we’re really pleased.
“I think the investment spent at Stamford Hospital demonstrates that it is an important part of the trust and it has a bright future.”
n There will be an open day at Stamford Hospital on Saturday, October 14, between 11am and 3pm, so people can see the new areas and find out more about the hospital.