In previous articles we have described the history of Wycombe Hospital up until 1948 when the National Health Service was formed. We will now consider the history for the next 30 years up to 1978.

When the NHS was formed in 1948 Wycombe War Memorial Hospital became responsible to the Oxford Region Hospital Board.

It had accommodation for only 96 in-patients. An early decision was made that due to pressures resulting from the war and the increasing population in the area of High Wycombe a new much larger District General Hospital should be provided. Due to the need to keep the existing hospital in operation it was decided to build the new one in three phases.

The first phase commenced in 1963. The construction of the shell and roof of the building was completed two years later at a cost of £1.5M.

The “topping out” took place on March 9, when the “tamping off” of the last six yard stretch of concrete in the top floor was ceremoniously undertaken by the Managing Director of the builders Ford & Walton.

The contract had been completed within the allotted time-scale.

In 1965, before the hospital became operational, it was named the Wycombe General.

1965 was also an important year for another reason, which was related to the long-term development of the hospital.

The first public statement was made about the possibility of Wycombe Wanderers moving from Loakes Park to a new ground, thus allowing a major expansion of the hospital site.

A statement was in effect forced upon the council on March 9 1965 by a rumour that the planning officer was considering a site for the new ground which ”would encroach further either on the Rye or Holywell Mead”.

It was explained that discussions had taken place between the hospital authorities and the football club at which the council had been represented, as a result of which the planning officer was asked to look round for possible sites. Reassurance was given that no commitments had been made.

Also in 1965 the hospital made the national newspapers, when on May 5 the Daily Mirror carried the headline “New Hospital – No Nurses”. The article stated that the £500 which had been spent on an advertising campaign for new nurses had generated only sixteen replies, of which only one responded again after being sent a brochure.

That was from a schoolgirl who wanted a career in nursing!

Apparently the hospital required a staff of 179 and unless these were in place by the end the year “the new hospital will stand like an empty shell as other hospitals have been forced to do”.

So the Deputy Group Secretary of the Hospital Management Committee was instructed to fly to Malta, where their government was sponsoring an emigration scheme. The results of this trip are not known.

Before it was open to accept patients the hospital was visited on January 7 1966 by the Minister for Health Kenneth Robinson. From the roof “he was shown the full scope of the next two stages of the hospital extension”.

He was also informed that the “adjacent London Transport Garage had been acquired” for that purpose, but in the event it was not used in that way. The bus garage did not close until 1977 and since then the building has been used by many different retail outlets.

The hospital seems to have come into use progressively during the later months of 1966. It served a population at that time of about 200,000, providing 224 beds for in-patients, which combined with those still available in the old Memorial Hospital brought the total to 280.

The operating theatres were operational from July 1966 and these were catering for a rising number of accident emergency admissions. Between 1961 and 1965 the number of such admissions rose from 25,737 to 35,036, the latter figure being an average of nearly 100 a day.

The Bucks Free Press reported that an innovation at the hospital was that all staff were to be provided with name badges, to make the contact between staff and patients more personal !

The second phase in the development of the new hospital was completed in 1969. This provided an A&E department with outpatient beds, and X-ray, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and medical records departments. To cater for geriatric patients a new single storey block of 56 beds had to be built at Booker Hospital.

In 1971 Phase III was completed and provided another 120 beds, together with Maternity, Gynaecology and Paediatric departments and a Midwifery Training School.

A new Maternity Unit costing £1M was opened in 1976. This allowed the centralisation of local baby-care services at Wycombe and the closure of the maternity units at Amersham and Stone.

However The Shrubbery maternity home off Amersham Hill remained open, although it was soon used for other health care services, such as the care of older people.

The old War Memorial hospital, then a wing of Wycombe General, was demolished. The names of the two wards in the wing, Beaconsfield and Carrington, were transferred to Booker Hospital.

On 29 October 1978 the first local twenty four hour Intensive Care Unit was opened at Wycombe General Hospital. It had been built two years previously but was not opened due to a lack of money to operate the Unit. Then the opening was delayed by three weeks because of industrial action by the maintenance supervisors trade union.

With no end in sight for this strike the “hospital boss ordered the ICU to open”. He also “launched an astonishing attack on the trade union”, according to the report in the BFP. The ICU had cost £144,000 to build and equip, and provided 6 beds for patients requiring 24/7 care.

If any readers have memories of the hospital during the period considered above which they would like to share, please contact Mike Dewey on 01494 755070 or email