On the 6th September, Brampton War Memorial Hospital will celebrate its 100th birthday. Built as a memorial for those who gave their lives in the First World War, it is steeped in history.
Since 1923 it has grown and adapted to support the various health and medical needs of Brampton and its surrounding districts. Its beating heart has always been its staff and we have been speaking to Mrs Florence Scott who got the bug for nursing in the 1950s at Brampton Hospital.
From a very young volunteer to a fully-fledged nurse, Brampton hospital played a pivotal role in Florence’s career. It was at Brampton hospital that her career in nursing began and concluded.
In 1951 at the age of 15, Florence Scott answered an advert in the local newspaper and was directed to Brampton War Memorial Hospital where she met the Matron.
She said: “She appeared like a ship in full sail. A large lady with a long flowing white cap. She talked to me at length and asked me to come to the hospital in the school holidays to get an insight into nursing.”
Florence did just that and it cemented her desire to care for others.
Against her parents’ wishes, Florence left school at 16 and started working full time at Brampton Hospital. Her wages were £6 a month and she worked a variety of day, night and split shifts.
In the 1950s, the hospital had 12 inpatient beds that were mainly used for maternity. When it was busy beds were added to the corridor and in the nursery sometimes babies were put head to tail when space was short.
She describes the labour ward: “This room was always very busy, day and night. Mothers stayed in bed after delivery for three days and then they stayed in hospital for a total of ten days. Fathers were not allowed on the labour ward and visiting hours were very strict. Often the babies were delivered on the ward if the labour ward was occupied and often by the patient’s own doctor otherwise it was the on duty midwife.”
At Brampton Hospital in the 1950s, practices were very different, there was not the same privacy and dignity considerations and infection prevention measures were very different. That said, sterilisation of instruments and other items was important but managed in a different way as Florence explains:
“There were no pre-packed swabs or instruments in those days. We rolled small swabs by hand from large rolls of cotton wool, cut the gauze to size, and fold them into squares. These were then put into individual drums and put in the oven in the kitchen. Sometimes they would come out an off-white colour with a distinct smell but they were well sterilised. Used jugs and bowls were put into a large sterilizer that was in an ante room off the theatre – sometimes you couldn’t see the patient for steam!”
There was also sad days for Florence when she came face to face with death; from babies to the elderly none were ever easy to deal with. There was an onsite mortuary then but the only access was through a door in the kitchen.
“We didn’t have trollies, we had two poles and a canvas stretcher. Even if there was only two nurses on duty we had to carry the patient – whatever size or weight – to the mortuary and we had to go through the kitchen. There were no hoists, we had to lift patients into the bath when necessary and all the beds were the same height, you had to bend or stretch no matter how tall or short you were.”
The hospital was open 24 hours a day and you never knew what was coming through the door. I learned a lot and was unofficially shown many nursing procedures during my time at Brampton, I was quite happy to clean sluices, scrub, clean bedpans, change babies nappies and do anything for the job I loved.
Florence remembers the excitement of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. It was decided that a TV should be bought so the patients and staff could watch it. However the day didn’t go as she hoped.
She said: “I was on a split shift because I was in the final of the Ladies’ tennis tournament in Brampton. On that day two Coronation babies were born but one needed to be transferred to Carlisle so I was nominated to go with the family. This meant I missed the Coronation but managed to get back for my tennis match, which I lost. I was back in work at 5pm with my own memories of Coronation day.”
The hospital is a war memorial and Remembrance Day was always poignant standing on the steps with the other staff.
“We would look over a sea of faces filling the entire area. At the front were ex-servicemen and women, members of the Royal British Legion, the town band, Guides and Brownies all assembled.”
Aged 18 Florence left Brampton to do her formal nurse training at the Cumberland Infirmary. She says this is when she entered the big wide world of hospitals and found out what nursing was all about. But she would finish her career where she started.
She said:“I was fortunate late in my career to get a post back at Brampton hospital which meant I could finish my working life where it had all started. Some things have not changed – the work is still hard both physically and emotionally and I still salute the staff of today.”
The 100th birthday has been marked with a thanks-giving service at Brampton Methodist church followed by a re-enactment of the opening led by the deputy Lord Lieutenant and a garden party at Brampton Community centre with music from the Brampton and district choir. The celebrations have been led by the Royal British Legion.
Mrs Scott is among those to join in the celebrations along with past and present staff and many local people and dignitaries.
Throughout the century, there have been many extensions and renovations to the building to make sure it remains fit for purpose. The hospital’s charity the Brampton League of Friends contributed significantly to the cost of that work over the years.
When it opened in 1923, the patients were mainly ‘older men’ and gradually services developed to include obstetrics and gynaecology and minor surgery.
Now the hospital boasts a range of services including:
A 16 bed inpatient ward,
The ICC Community rehabilitation service (Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, assistant practitioners and health care practitioners who visit people’s homes).
Core physiotherapy services (with a fully equipped rehabilitation gym)
Specialist Musculoskeletal service.
Children’s speech and language therapist
Mental health services
Persistent Pain services
Diabetic eye screening