by James Persico
In July, the Queen’s Medical Centre celebrated 40 years since its opening in 1977 as the largest purpose-built hospital in Europe. Conceived of in order to address the paucity of medical care in what was deemed one of the worst-served cities in the UK, it has been continually expanding, gaining additional departments, specialisms and buildings since its first patients were admitted in 1978.
Government records from 1964 reveal a vision for an institution “of about 1,200 beds and a school with an intake of 100 students”. A new hospital had been somewhat overdue; Nottingham General, having been established in 1782, was by this juncture struggling to meet the needs of the local population. The adjoining medical school also helped relieve a swelling demand for additional doctors, with the last new school, in Cardiff, having been founded back in 1893.
42 acres of land on Clifton Boulevard, adjacent to the University Park campus, were set aside for construction work, courting protests from members of the housing estate it replaced. The finished facility also attracted complaints from some for being “too big” and “impersonal”. However, the QMC’s overwhelming size was entirely intentional, for it was to take on all acute and trauma cases from surrounding local hospitals, a forward-thinking concept reminiscent of today’s experiments with “super-hospitals”. The concentration of expertise proved rewarding, with the QMC involved with several landmark discoveries and developments, from MRI to child brain tumours to cochlear implants.
The Queen’s Medical Centre played a key role in the immediate aftermath of the Kegworth air disaster in 1989, with 40 patients being received from the crash site of 12 miles away, more than any other hospital, at one point admitting a patient every minute. A investigatory report published in the aftermath praised the QMC’s performance in its speedy admission and treatment of casualties.
The hospital’s long-standing involvement in paediatrics is especially notable (its first set of patients in 1978 were transferees from the closing Nottingham Children’s Hospital, known affectionately as Little Ormond Street). Over summer, the paediatric diabetes team was recognised as foremost in England & Wales, topping the national rankings.
Today, the QMC has over 1300 beds, employs over 6000 staff and takes in 206 new medical students annually. In July this year, its emergency department, designed to cope with 350 patients a day, saw 3052 over a 6 day period, adding new impetus to Nottingham University Hospital Trust’s requests for funding for a new accident & emergency department. Indications that resources are being exploited to their limits were confirmed by the issuance in November 2016 of a “black alert” on the basis of insufficient beds.
Development is, however, steaming ahead. This March saw formal approval for the construction of a new, £3.2m helipad to cut waiting times for handovers by 10 minutes, though sadly this will be reserved for A&E functions and unavailable to students on placement seeking a nippier alternative to the Medlink bus from City.