Princess Alexandra Hospital marks 55 years of caring for patients across East Herts and West Essex
Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow marked its 55th birthday on Monday (April 27) – and more than half a century of caring for patients across East Herts and West Essex.
The official opening ceremony in 1965 was attended by the Queen’s cousin, who gave her name to the Hamstel Road facilities – Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra, the Honourable Lady Ogilvy.
An account of the official opening of the hospital, held in its archive, describes the event in detail.
“The Princess... arrived by helicopter at Harlow Heliport on Tuesday, April 27, 1965, in particularly dark and wet weather. From here she was taken by car to the soon to be opened hospital which was to be named after her (a well-kept secret at the time).
“During this car journey, she was met by some 1,500 people, mostly children, along Second and Third Avenue, determined to endure the weather for a short glimpse of the Princess.
“By the time she arrived at the hospital in the early afternoon, the sun started to break through the clouds and the marquee event was flush with 600 guests ready to meet the Princess and formally open the hospital.
“After giving an address to the guests, she was brought to the front door of the hospital and given the key by Mr S E T Cusdin, architect for the hospital.”
It continues: “A cheer was heard throughout the crowd and after a short interlude people began to enter the building. After unveiling a ceremonial plaque for Princess Alexandra Hospital, she went on a tour of the facilities with an entourage of doctors and nurses to welcome her.”
The visit was so popular that some families “gatecrashed” the invitation-only event to catch a glimpse of the 28-year-old royal.
She returned in September 1998 to officially open the new CT (computed tomography) scanner suite in the X-ray department.
The radiology department at PAH performed 32,236 CT investigations in 2019. The hospital is to receive £447,000 from the Government for a new state-of-the-art CT scanner, to be installed this year. This will support early diagnosis of cancer for patients.
The hospital was established as the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in April 1995, providing services in Harlow, at Herts and Essex Hospital in Bishop’s Stortford and St Margaret’s Hospital in Epping.
In the years since the hospital first opened, it has undergone modernisation and development, including recent additions such as the Charnley Ward and renovation of Ray Ward. It has 414 general and acute beds, a 24/7 emergency department, an intensive care unit (ICU), a maternity unit and a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
The trust’s 3,500 staff serve a core population of about 350,000 people in West Essex and East Hertfordshire.
In October 2019, two months before the General Election, the Conservative Government announced that PAHT was to receive funding to build a new hospital in Harlow. Details around the funding and timeframe are being finalised and PAHT is completing its business case for the new hospital.
Chief executive Lance McCarthy said: “The hospital is marking its 55th anniversary as we manage the demands of coronavirus (Covid-19) and, as ever, our amazing people are here to provide high-quality care and treatment for the people of West Essex and East Hertfordshire.
“While the appearance of the hospital may have changed, the professionalism and compassion of our PAHT people over the years is a constant.
“We have seen an outpouring of support for our hospital, with extremely generous fundraising, gifts and kind words for our teams during this time.
"We hope you will join us in reflecting on the vital role of PAHT in our community and in giving your thanks to our colleagues for their hard work and dedication.
“While coronavirus remains at the forefront of the national consciousness, we are also looking to the future. We continue to progress our plans and I’m delighted to be working towards a new hospital for Harlow to serve our community, the next chapter in the story of the Princess Alexandra Hospital.”