Royal visit to Eastbourne DGH planned

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A member of the Royal Family will visit the DGH next month to mark the 70th Anniversary of the formation of the Friends of Eastbourne Hospitals

Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra is to visit the Kings Drive facility on Thursday May 10.

The 81-year-old princess has close links with the hospital having officially opened it in 1977. She will unveil a plaque to mark the Friends’ Anniversary and meet friends and volunteers who do so much to raise money and support the hospital, its patients and staff.

Harry Walmsley, the chairman of the Friends of Eastbourne Hospital, said, “It is a great honour for the Friends to have Princess Alexandra visit and help us celebrate our 70th anniversary.

“The formation of the Friends slightly predates the start of the NHS by just three months. Since that time, countless local people have helped to support the Friends with their generous donations and gift of time to support our fund raising activities. We would like to thank everyone who has contributed, great or small, in the past and to those who will continue to do so in the future.”

Back in 1948 there were eight hospitals in the Eastbourne area and on April 30 1948, the representatives of the various volunteer collectors got together and decided there would still be a need for them even when the NHS was formed later that year. They formed the Hospital Patients Association that evening, which a few years later changed its name to the Friends of the Eastbourne Hospitals.

Since 1948 the Friends of Eastbourne Hospital as it later became has raised in excess of £16 million. The first statement of accounts showed a balance of £239/1d in comparison with last year when the Friends raised just over £1 million.

One of the first donations in 1949 was a radiogram for the Maternity Home at 9, The Avenue, always known as Number 9.

Recent big fundraising has included £1 million for a urology Da Vinci robot, £500,000 for a CT scanner and £380,000 for radiotherapy.

Much has changed over the years, in 1956 a Friends’ minute extract said, “It was noted with regret that the favourite budgie at Downside had passed away and the secretary was instructed to arrange for his replacement.”

One year`s maintenance for a budgie was 2/6d. A pair had previously been bought by the Friends.

Originally the Friends acted as a conduit for complaints to the management, one of which was a gentleman who complained that nobody was available to take the betting slips.

In 1956 there were 1,000 members and £1,000 was gifted to the hospitals in that year.