The final patient has been seen, the last boxes have been packed and the doors have closed for the very last time at Essex County Hospital.
Teams have been moving in phases from the Lexden Road site to Colchester’s Primary Care Centre (PCC) in Turner Road, over the past two weeks and have now said their final goodbyes to the historic site.
Some staff, like Ophthalmology sister Clare Smith, have spent most of their careers at the hospital, which is nearly 200-years-old. She started her training there in 1982.
She said: “It’s mixed emotions really, we’ve got a lot of memories here. It will be nice to take those with us.
“We’re really excited to be moving to the PCC, the facilities have been purpose built for us, the care will be no different, but we can deliver it in an improved environment and give patients a better experience.”
Lesley Chapman, now head of hearing and balance services, arrived at ECH as a student hearing therapist.
She said: “I have never woken up and thought ‘I don’t want to go to work at the county’. We are all very loyal to our hospital, but we do realise it’s way beyond its sell-by-date and modern medicine has moved on so we’re looking forward to the opportunity to further develop our audiology work, especially in our complex area of adult and paediatric hearing aid work and balance service.”
Lesley will be taking a team of 15 audiologists, hearing therapists and administrators to the PCC.
She said one of the best things about ECH has been the atmosphere. She said: “We do love it, the building means a lot to everyone. We’ve been very lucky to have worked there all these years. It’s the staff, the staff are like a family.”
Audiology receptionist Lorraine Aplin has worked for the NHS for 44 years, and has been in and around ECH for 36 of them. She said: “We’ll just be in a different location, but the place will come with us.”
Although the building means so much to staff and the community, the time is right for the start of a new chapter which will improve services for patients.
Nick Hulme, Chief Executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), said: “Today marks the end of an era as Essex County Hospital closes its doors for the final time.
“The building holds fond memories for a number of people, including our staff, but we hope those memories will be taken to the Primary Care Centre which will provide modern, light and much-improved surroundings for the teams leaving Lexden Road.
“It will make a huge difference to them and the patients we serve who have never complained about the poor state of repair of the building and we thank them for that. The site has meant so much to so many people, but this move is long overdue and it will mean we can improve services for patients in north Essex.
“I’d like to thank everyone involved who’s worked so hard to make the transfer of services from Essex County Hospital possible and for all the years of dedication our staff have given to the site.”
A £6.4million redevelopment of the PCC has created a much more modern environment to house the remaining ECH teams.
Ophthalmology will be on the first floor, while Oral Surgery, Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) and Audiology will be on the second floor. Wheelchair Services moved to Clacton Hospital at the end of October.
Cara Gosbell, transfer of ECH services project manager, said: “We are so pleased with how the transfer of services has gone. It’s been hard work, from all the packing to the move itself, but all teams have gone above and beyond to make it happen.
“The dedication and hard work of everyone to get the job done has been brilliant to see and I thank my team and all colleagues at ECH in helping to bring this huge project to a successful end.
“Although everyone will miss ECH, the new facilities at the PCC are exemplary and will mean our patients can be cared for in a much more modern environment following the extensive refurbishment. It’s been a long time in the planning, but it’s great to see our teams happy and set up in their new home.”
The journey to close Essex County Hospital
The plans to transfer all services from ECH and sell the site were agreed by Colchester Hospital’s board of directors in April 2014.
The decision followed a series of moves which had relocated, or had firm plans to move, the cancer Inpatient, Outpatient, Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy services from ECH to Turner Road. These moves were completed after the opening of the new Radiotherapy department which saw its first patients in May 2014. The final cancer service move was the transfer of two wards – Rhys Lewis and Jefferson – to the newly refurbished, purpose-built West Bergholt Ward in October 2014.
The board decision to transfer services from ECH required careful planning of alternative locations, and over the period from spring 2014 to November 2018 new facilities to meet the changing requirements of the following services have been planned and services have relocated into purpose built space mainly on the Turner Road site:
- Clinical Trials Service: moved in 2014 to modified office space in the Old Boiler House building.
- Dermatology and Plastic Surgery: relocated to the extended and refurbished main outpatient department in 2015.
- Breast Services: moved into a purpose-built space in the ground floor of Gainsborough Wing in early April 2018.
- Nuclear Medicine: moved in late April 2018 to the new Turner Diagnostic Centre.
- Radiation Protection: moved in July 2018 to modified facilities in the Old Boiler House building.
- Ophthalmology: transferred in November 2018 to first floor of the PCC.
- ENT and Audiology: transferred in November 2018 to second floor of the PCC.
- Oral Surgery: transferred in November 2018 to first floor of the PCC.
- Radiology: moved to an upgraded facility in the ground floor of the PCC in November 2018.
- Specialist Wheelchair Services: relocated to purpose adapted space at Clacton Hospital in October 2018.
- Community Equipment Services: relocated to the Colchester Hospital site in November 2018.
ESNEFT will hand over the 4.5 acre site before Christmas to Essex Housing, who plans to build 100 homes on the land.
Useful contact numbers at the PCC for patients:
- Ophthalmology appointment clerks: 01206 286870 / 01206 286871 / 01206 286872
- Ophthalmology admissions: 01206 286874 / 01206 286875
- ENT admissions: 01206 286892
- ENT administration: 01206 286894
- Orthoptic administration: 01206 286866
- Optometry administration: 01206 286868 / 01206 286869
- Oral Surgery: 01206 286914 / 01206 286915 / 01206 286916
PAs – for follow up appointments and queries
- PA to Mr Dimitriou and Mrs Gordon: 01206 286856
- PA to Mr Mukherjee and Mrs Shenoy: 01206 286769
- PA to Mr Sheldrick: 01206 286860
- PA to Mr Patel and Mr Bansal: 01206 286863
- PA to Mr McRae: 01206 286764
- PA to Mr Qureshi: 01206 286890
- PA to Mr McFerran: 01206 286897
- PA to Ms Espeso: 01206 286899
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