Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust has had an important role in healthcare in and around Salisbury and throughout the region for over 250 years. As the community has grown, so has the services and reach of the Trust. Today, besides being the largest employer in the area, it also involves the community through its Council of Governors and charities, such as Stars Appeal and ArtCare. In addition, the Trust is a specialist centre for a variety of services for patients across Southern England.
In 1763, Lord Feversham left £500 from his estate towards the creation of a hospital in Salisbury. Within four years the Salisbury General Infirmary opened using existing buildings on the site of Fisherton Street, until a new building opened in 1771. The Infirmary would go on to serve the area until 1993.
In 1942 the US Army transferred patients to a site at Odstock, near Salisbury it had built to support the Salisbury General Infirmary in receiving casualties from northern France and later soldiers wounded in the D-Day landings in 1944. The buildings at Odstock were of the standard British brick and Nissen hut type. The original plans for 600 beds, was later expanded to a 1,000-bed capacity. During this brief period the organisation cared for 10,000 patients. At the end of the war the hospital was handed over to the Salisbury Health Authority and the huts replaced with new buildings.
Odstock Hospital became the centre for specialist services for the Wessex region while general hospital services were provided at the Salisbury Infirmary and elderly care services at Newbridge Hospital in Harnham.
The Regional Plastic and Oral Surgery Centre opened in 1949, having moved from Basingstoke. In the early years a new state-of-the-art Burns Unit was built and a Rehabilitation Department and Macmillan Unit were built. In 1966 new pioneering operating theatres opened at Odstock hospital site.
The first kidney dialysis machine was developed at Salisbury. In 1946 Dr Edward Darmady experimented in constructing his own dialysing machine that was powered by parts dismantled from World War II spitfires. Clinical results were never published, but it is known that at least two patients survived the treatment, and Darmady is recorded as creator of the first dialysing machine in England.
A spinal injuries treatment centre was also built and opened by HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH the Princess of Wales in 1984. The Duke of Cornwall Spinal Unit now serves a population of 11 million people and covers most of southern England.
From 1992 to 1993 all hospital services from Salisbury General Infirmary were transferred to the Odstock site. A new three-level building was commissioned and the new hospital became known as Salisbury District Hospital.
On 29 January, 1993, the newly named Salisbury District Hospital was officially opened by the Duchess of Kent. A celebration service was held on 1st May at Salisbury Cathedral to commemorate the closing of Salisbury General Infirmary and mark the new beginnings of Salisbury District Hospital. The following year Salisbury Health Care was granted NHS Trust status.
Since then, the hospital has seen a new building for Burns, Plastic Surgery and patient wards in 2006, a new Sarum Ward and dedicated Children’s Outpatients department in 2012 and a new Eye Clinic created in 2017.
The Children’s unit won a national Building Better Health Care Award in recognition of its unique child-friendly design and bright and sensitive internal decoration. The Best Building Product in Healthcare Award was awarded to Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust and Altro Ltd. The team from ArtCare, the arts in health service for the Trust, created the digital designs using children’s images to transform rooms and clinical areas so that they were light and sensitive to the particular needs of children and families.
In May 2020, a commemorative badge was presented to all nursing and midwifery staff on Florence Nightingale’s bicentenary which also marked the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Florence Nightingale had a lifelong history with Salisbury and the Salisbury Infirmary. As part of these celebrations, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust is honouring its nursing staff in very special ways, and ArtCare is supporting them with a year-long programme of special events and activities.
ArtCare received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for sorting, recording and sharing the historical archives and collections relating to health care in Salisbury over the past 250+ years. They provide a fascinating insight into medicine, healthcare and the social history of the city.
See ArtCare’s Salisbury healthcare history www.salisburyhealthcarehistory.uk
Our staff at Salisbury District Hospital have long been well regarded for the quality of care and treatment they provide for our patients and for their innovation, commitment and professionalism. This has been recognised in a wide range of achievements and it is reflected in our award of NHS Foundation Trust status. This is afforded to hospitals that provide the highest standards of care.