A 'COMMUNITY' hospital serving South Lakeland and beyond has celebrated 25 years since it opened its doors.

Kendal's Westmorland General Hospital was officially declared operational by Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne on July 6 1992.

To celebrate more than two decades of serving the area, a party was held at the hospital and attended by past patients and staff members past and present.


Eleanor Jones was the first patient to be 'wheeled in' to the £24million hospital in December 1991, prior to the hospital's official opening.

She was transferred, along with many staff, from the old Kendal Green hospital in what she remembered as very much a 'teething time'.

"I was given the bed next to the window then the staff were still running around," she recalled. "It was a big lonely to say the least because I think it was about five days just me.

"The chef she moved from Kendal Green to here and she did not know how to use all the modern equipment because it was the stainless steel equipment and all mod cons - all I would get was rice putting and trifle and she used to make it as if the whole ward was there! So I remember buckets and buckets of trifle. Every single day it was either rice putting or trifle!"

Despite the adjustment period, the 64-year-old said that she had 'no faults' with the care she received.

Staff were also transferred from the old Westmorland County and and Meathop Hospital near Grange-over-Sands.

More than 30 staff from University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) have worked at the Trust for 25 years.

Sue Smith, executive chief nurse for the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust said that it was 'amazing' to have so many long term staff, especially when nationally the number of nurses registering was dropping.

"I think it is that feel of community," she said, when asked why the hospital had such a high retention rate. "The patients and people that come to this hospital really value the staff and I think they feel valued. I think as a nurse if you feel like you're making a difference that keeps you going and I think that's what they do. I think they make a difference and I think our local population make them feel that as well and I'm sure that's what makes them stay."

Dr Isabel Huggett, 63, was on the commissioning team for the new hospital. She retired last year after 32 years as a consultant but recalled that it had been 'quite exciting' to be involved in those first steps.

"It's a lovely building to work in because it was well designed from the point of view of the patients and it was a pleasant place to work," she said.

Dr Huggett added that it was essential that care could be offered close to home, something which is not always possible in a rural community.

"I think for people needing rehabilitation and elderly care facilities you need to be close to people's homes," she said. "You cannot have people in hospital for very long periods of time when their relatives can't easily visit them. They need to be able to get here and visit them."

Mrs Smith acknowledged that there are challenges for the hospital, particularly regarding funding and staffing levels. She hopes that a new degree apprenticeship will help ensure that staffing numbers are well maintained.

"[One of] the main issues for us at the moment is our ability to staff all of the our hospitals," she said. "Our staff are making up for that, they just are amazing.

"The effort that comes from our staff is phenomenal and it is without doubt what makes this wonderful hospital an amazing organisation. It's a really tough job. They do it with a smile and they care passionately."