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Former nurse looks back on 40 years of King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital ahead of anniversary celebrations




A governor at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital has shared her memories from four decades ago, to coincide with its anniversary celebrations.

Penny Hipkin, a former nurse, has recalled how some staff arrived at the new QEH in Lynn by furniture van with all the equipment 40 years ago.

And the 75-year-old has remained part of the hospital’s furniture ever since, including her current role as a governor and chairman of the League of Friends charity, which raises funds for the hospital.

QEH Governor and Governor and Chairman of the League of Friends charity, Penny Hipkin. (31805416)
QEH Governor and Governor and Chairman of the League of Friends charity, Penny Hipkin. (31805416)

In July, the QEH will celebrate its 40th birthday and Penny recalled how much has changed since she started at the Gayton Road site, earning just £2,370 a year, after moving from the old St James hospital.

The mother-of-three said the new hospital was almost luxurious compared to what she had been used to.

She said the old hospital had large open wards with little privacy for patients, compared to the new hospital with six-bed curtained bays.

“There was no space between the beds and the population of King’s Lynn hated being nursed at the old St James hospital because it was the old workhouse. To come up here when everything was brand spanking new was great.

“The paint had barely dried and the operating theatres were state-of-the-art in comparison to the antiquated facilities we had previously used.”

The grandmother, who qualified as a nurse in 1978, said an ageing population meant patients were more poorly and stayed for longer than when the hospital opened.

Medical staff are also faced with an enormous increase in paperwork and the raised expectations of patients who can use the web to find out more about their conditions and the range of possible treatments.

Older patients were sent to ‘convalescent’ homes as they recovered back in the 1980s, before returning home, but many of these homes have since closed.

However, she said nursing was still an extremely rewarding role and would recommend the profession to others and she was proud of her own involvement with the hospital up to her current fundraising activities with the Friends organisation.

She added: “I think that the nurses here are doing a fantastic job under enormous pressures and I would say to them that the hospital is at the heart of the community and they play a huge part in keeping the residents fit and well and not to lose sight of that vital work when times are challenging.

“The hospital has always been – and will continue to be – a big part of my life.”

The hospital will be 40-years-old on July 22 and is named after the late Queen Mother.

It serves a population of around 331,000 people living in West Norfolk, South Lincolnshire and North East Cambridgeshire.

There are 500 beds across 28 wards and in 2018/19 there were 2,818 staff working at the Gayton Road site.

For details of forthcoming 40th anniversary events, see the @TeamQEH Twitter feed (#QEH40) and Facebook pages.


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