Where would we be without it?
Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital is marking 40 years since it was officially opened.
Over the last four decades it has forged a reputation as a pioneering centre of excellence where countless thousands of patients from our region, and beyond, have been treated.
The foundation stone at the Freeman was laid in June 1972 by Sir Keith Joseph, Secretary of State for Social Services in Ted Heath’s Tory government.
The first patients were admitted in October 1977, and Prince Charles delighted nurses and staff when he performed the official opening on May 31 the following year.
Shotley Bridge General, Seaham Hall, Rye Hill, Walkergate and St Nicholas Hospitals, as well as West End Chest Clinic were wholly or partially absorbed into the Freeman.
Newcastle General and the Royal Victoria Infirmary also saw some units and wards integrated into the new hospital.
Built on 35 landscaped acres which were enhanced by thousands of trees, shrubs and bulbs planted on the contoured land, the initial cost of the Freeman was around £15m – although the hospital would continue to expand over the following decades.
A commemorative brochure produced in 1978 declared: “The hospital is one of the most technologically advanced in Europe and justifiably a source of Local pride, fulfilling the motto of the Area Health Authority – ‘We Heal and Teach’.
The brochure added: “A total of 813 beds are provided for general medicine, general surgery, orthopaedics, children, cardiothoracic medicine and surgery, rheumatology, urology and nephrology (kidneys).”
These were backed up by new intensive care units, operating theatres, and diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitation facilities.
Today, of course, the Freeman has a well-earned reputation as one of Europe’s leading centres for organ transplant surgery.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said: “Demand for cardiothoracic expertise at the Freeman Hospital has grown substantially since the unit first opened in 1977, and the Newcastle Hospitals the only Trust in the UK to provide all cardiac care from conception, through birth, childhood and onto adulthood.”
Famously, in 1987, the UK’s first paediatric heart transplant was carried out at the Freeman Hospital.
Last year, the Chronicle reported how Kaylee Davidson-Olley was celebrating an incredible 30 years since her pioneering lifesaving operation as a five-month-old baby.
The hospital also made history when both the first successful single and double lung transplants in Europe were carried out at the hospital in 1990.
The award-winning Northern Centre for Cancer Care moved across from the Newcastle General Hospital in 2011 and is home to the Sir Bobby Robson Clinical Trials Unit which specialises in oncology clinical trials.
Meanwhile, the Freeman is making great strides in robotic surgery, and its bone anchored hearing aid service.
The ‘Trust’ which is rated ‘Outstanding’ also boasts a state-of-the-art renal services centre; liver, pancreatic, and biliary surgery; and the national centre for excellence in treatment of rheumatology. The list goes on.
Dame Jackie Daniel, Chief Executive at the Newcastle Hospitals, says: “I think it is very fitting that we recognise this important milestone the same year the NHS turns 70.
“We’ve seen huge changes during this relatively short space of time, with the introduction of many revolutionary techniques, some of which were pioneered right here in Newcastle by staff who are, quite rightly, internationally renowned in their field.
“I am in no doubt we will continue to innovate for years to come.”
How many of us and how many of our loved-ones have been recipients of the first-class treatment provided at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital? How many lives have been saved, improved or extended since 1978 by the Freeman team? Here’s to the next 40 years – and beyond.
Source : Chroniclelive