The first phase of major hospital changes in Hastings and Rother took place 25 years ago this month.
The Conquest Hospital replaced the Royal East Sussex Hospital (RESH), in Hastings town centre, and some services at St Helen’s Hospital in Ore. Services moved in stages to the Conquest, with Accident and Emergency among the first, finishing with inpatients who were moved in over two days on July 21 and 22, 1992.
On the day of the move, activity began early in the morning when patients began the transfer by ambulance. The East Sussex Ambulance Service, as it was known then, treated the operation as a major incident and used it to test their new Ambulance Mobile Unit, and track the ambulances as they made there way to the new hospital.
Those patients who were very ill had doctors and specially trained paramedics to accompany them. Fortunately, no patients were deemed too sick to be transferred and over two days, all patients were safely moved up to Conquest.
One of the first patients to arrive by ambulance, Rita Markham, told the Hastings Observer the new hospital was “marvellous”.
In 1987, the construction company Cementation started preparatory works on site. This involved sinking about 1,000 reinforced concrete piles to stabilise the site. Then followed the laying of “French” pipes for water drainage from the numerous springs which had been mapped on the site.
Kenneth Clarke, then Health Minister, unveiled the foundation stone in 1988 and the plaque is now located on the outside wall to the left of the main entrance.
The hospital was officially opened by HRH Princess Anne on February 11, 1993.
She returned five years later to open the second phase of the hospital.
Since the Conquest opened in 1992, there have been various extensions to the hospital. The most notable was in July 1997 when phase two of the hospital opened. It saw maternity and gynaecology services at Buchanan Hospital and medical services at St Helen’s Hospital move in.
Since originally opening, extensions have also taken place in A&E, Endoscopy and Hydrotherapy.