Stratford’s state-of-the-art £30million hospital received a special visitor on Tuesday as the Princess Royal officially opened the building.
Although the hospital, which specialises in treating cancer and eye conditions, has been treating patients since last summer, hospital bosses and civic dignitaries pulled out all the stops for the Princess’ visit.
She was first treated to a tour of the new facility, meeting clinical staff and learning about the cutting-edge treatments available.
The Princess Royal then unveiled a plaque officially opening the site in the main foyer, having overcome some difficulties with the curtains obscuring it.
Addressing the assembled dignitaries Princess Anne said: “You’ve been open a little while so many of you will have had the opportunity to test the theories and the practice and I hope you’re as pleased with this hospital as you thought you were going to be. This is a huge local effort to achieve this hospital and there are many people I suspect need to be thanked, and I would like to congratulate all you have achieved here.
“Space is what you make of it and everyone will do exactly that, make the best possible use of the space you’ve created here, this hospital has a real long-term future in the development of Stratford and healthcare in whatever form that that takes. To have the flexibility to respond to those changes is an important part of that and it’s built into this hospital.
“Congratulations and you can look into the future with a great deal of confidence.”
Glen Burley, chief executive of the South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s Fantastic to get to this point and to have the official opening, obviously we have been treating patients in here since last year, but to get Her Royal Highness along and to see the interest she showed in the facility and to hear the really positive words she spoke about what she saw, it’s been a great day.
“It’s a local facility for the people of Stratford and the surrounding area for cancer treatment, for ophthalmology treatment and for MRI imaging. Because it’s such a great facility we’ve brought better staff in, we’ve been able to recruit really high quality staff in addition to the great staff we’ve already got. Great facilities attract great staff so it’s kind of a twofold benefit.
“We’re looking to bring more specialties here and will gradually be increasing the use of the cancer unit, it was designed with a ten year lifetime. There’s also additional phases, we’re looking at more day surgery. This is the first phase of continual development of this site.”
It took a huge community effort to support the construction of the new hospital with a high-profile appeal raising £1million to pay for added extras at the facility.
Such extras include chemotherapy pods and specialist diagnostic equipment, all designed to establish Stratford as a centre of excellence in the treatment of cancer and eye conditions.
After presenting the Princess Royal with a bunch of flowers, Lila Morgan, from the Stratford Hospital League of Friends, said: “I’m so pleased to see the Princess Royal here today, she’s so natural and at ease with it all.”
Consultant ophthalmologist Professor Gary Misson, who accompanied the Princess Royal on her tour of the site, said: “The Princess Royal was very clued up, she asked a lot of relevant questions about things. It’s a very fitting opening for the new hospital and a very positive day for Stratford.
“There is a lot of demand for the services here in Stratford and we have some of the shortest waiting times around.”
Cllr Chris Kettle, chairman of Stratford District Council, said: “It’s great to see such a wonderful facility open here in Stratford, it’s a huge step up in the quality of care for residents. The treatment on offer here is state-of-the-art.”
Stratford mayor, Cllr John Bicknell, added: “I’m very excited to be here today, I’m a patient of Stratford Hospital and I’m pleased to see the difference this facility is making to the town and hopefully in future years it will be extended further. It’s a great honour to have the Princess Royal here today.”
Earlier in the day the Princess visited Wootton Wawen to open Warwickshire Rural Housing Association’s Keyte Gardens, the county’s first Passivhaus development of affordable homes.
14 affordable ultra-low energy homes have been built on the site and the Princess took time to speak to residents and those involved in the scheme.
The Princess Royal also visited Compton Verney-based charity Riding for the Disabled, to help celebrate the organisation’s 50th birthday.
She watched two short demonstrations before presenting thrilled riders with commemorative rosettes. After going on to open a new classroom at the site, The Princess Royal presented a number of awards.
Long service awards were given to its ponies, Marco and Keira. The Silver Jubilee award for 25 years’ service to volunteer Mrs Beryl Tomlinson and for 30 years’ service to volunteer Sally Johnson.
RDA Over and Above awards were presented to Mrs Jill Nelhams, Mrs Karen Arnold and Miss Jasmine Wyatt for their outstanding contribution to RDA.
The final presentation was for a new award donated by RDA’s 97-year-old founder, The Beryl Sainsbury Special Achievement award. This was given to Mr Max Stainton, who commenced riding with the Stratford RDA group at the age of five and this year became the first man with cerebral palsy to ride to Base Camp Everest on horseback, raising over £60k for RDA UK.
Donna Jenkins, Group Organiser of Stratford RDA said: “It was an honour to welcome HRH The Princess Royal to our 50 year anniversary celebration.
“Many people have helped the Group with its continued success. We owe a huge debt of thanks to all who have volunteered their time and provided generous financial support to help keep our riders provided with the fun and therapy that they all enjoy.”