Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Friday, 17 September 2010 16:33 UK
Bishop's Castle Community Hospital revamp nears end
Bishop's Castle Community Hospital
Members of staff and fund-raisers try out the new bench

The future of Bishop's Castle Community Hospital looks secure as a £1.3m scheme to refurbish the building nears completion.

A new suite for the use of dying patients and their relatives has also been revealed.

It has been paid for by the government-backed Kings Fund and the Shropshire Primary Care Trust as well as cash from local fundraising efforts.

Work on the main hospital and new suite is expected to be finished in October.

Charity haircut

Dr Adrian Penney, a doctor at the hospital, grew his hair for two years after vowing to avoid the barber until the refurbishment was complete.

Dr Adrian Penney
Dr Adrian Penney grew his hair for two years to raise money for the hospital

Dr Penney has raised around £20,000 towards the work and this week, he invited staff patients and other fundraisers to cut his locks and contribute to the fund.

He said he was glad to have short hair once again: "I never got used to it. I never had long hair not even as a student."

Dr Penney was delighted with the new suite and the garden area that links the two rooms: "The Kings Fund gave £30,000, and there was £10,000 from the PCT.

"This was for improving the environment at the end of life, for not only patients, their relatives and families, but also for staff who are looking after them."

It's designed to give a peaceful area with no view of the hospital, so you can separate yourself from a traumatic time
Craftsman, Mark Arbon

Sarah Waller from the Kings Fund was closely involved with the project from the beginning: "It was clear from the application that they wanted to create a special place for relatives to be with people who are dying in the hospital.

"We know how important it is to us, particularly when we are very ill, to re-connect with nature."

Special bench

The main feature of the outside space is a curved bench created by local craftsman Mark Arbon: "It's a shell. It's a spiral. It's a very ancient shape and a very secure and holding shape."

He said the idea was to make people feel comfortable: "It's designed to give a peaceful area with no view of the hospital, so you can separate yourself from a traumatic time."

Dr Adrian Penney and Dr St John Penney
Dr Adrian Penney and his father St John have both worked at the hospital

At the dedication of the new garden was Dr St John Penney, father of Dr Adrian Penney, who started work at Bishop's Castle Community Hospital in 1954.

He remembered what it was like: "It was an old stone building to start with, run as a home and a hospital under one management with one matron running the whole show."

Also at the ceremony was Rita Coxall who also worked at the hospital in its early days. She remembered it when it was a home for tramps: "They used to come here and have a night's rest, a nice breakfast and a cup of tea.

"They used to do a little bit of work for us, breaking stone and things like that."

Mrs Coxall was also involved in four campaigns to save the hospital when it was threatened with closure: "We've been to London, Birmingham, everywhere, with banners and everything.

"I've still got all the banners we've used. I can't throw them away in case we have to do it again."

Work on the refurbishment and the new suite is expected to be complete next month and the builders will finally leave.

Sister Sandra Bradbury said it had been a stressful couple of years: "The journey's been absolutely amazing, but also very, very hard work, juggling the design, the colours, besides looking after the patients and staff. It has been really hard, but I can't believe it's all come together."


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