Sharoe Green Hospital opened in 1869 and was originally owned and administered by Preston Borough Council. As the years progressed, the hospital had staff and facilities covering various specialties, including infectious diseases, mental health and maternity services. It was also a workhouse hospital until 1929.
On 4 July 1948 the hospital was vested in the Ministry of Health, being placed under the control of the Preston and Chorley Hospital Management Committee. In 1951 the hospital was provided with a new laboratory, followed several years later by the upgrading of medical wards, the building of doctors’ residences and the opening of a new canteen and stores.
1960 to 1990
This period began with the expansion of the Sharoe Green site. October 1968 saw the opening of a new extension block, which by 1973, when the phased introduction was completed, housed new wards for gynaecology, plastic surgery, coronary care and orthopaedics, a suite of operating theatres, a sterile supplies department, pharmacy, nurse training school and more staff residential accommodation.
As part of an overall re-organisation within the NHS, on 1 April 1974 the ownership of the hospital was transferred from the Preston and Chorley Hospital Management Committee (which had run Sharoe Green Hospital since 1948) to the Lancashire Area Health Authority. More directly, the hospital was now administered by the Preston Health District.
In 1976, construction began on a day case surgery unit on the lower ground floor of the eight-year-old extension block. The day case unit accommodated general surgery, orthopaedics and burns patients.
By 1980, Sharoe Green was a substantial 500-bedded General Hospital with facilities for general medicine, general surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedics, acute psychiatric treatment (including a day hospital and outpatients), paediatric medicine, a department for elderly medicine and a young disabled unit. The hospital was also a sub-regional centre for plastic surgery and had a very busy outpatients department.
1981 was a significant year for Sharoe Green Hospital and for health services in general in Preston. From March of this year, there began the phased opening of a new acute hospital for the town, the 700-bedded Royal Preston Hospital. 1981 also marked the beginning of the end for the old Preston Royal Infirmary, which finally closed to patients in 1987.
In the short term, however, the effects were mainly felt at Sharoe Green, with general medical and surgical specialties and burns moving to the new hospital, and orthopaedics and gynaecology transferring to the old Infirmary in the late spring of 1982. In the medium term, plans were being developed to expand Sharoe Green again once Preston Infirmary had closed.
On 1 April 1982, another NHS re-organisation was implemented. The Lancashire Area Health Authority was dissolved and the administration of the hospital passed to the Preston District Health Authority. The new authority was itself accountable to the North Western Regional Health Authority, which had succeeded the Manchester Regional Hospital Board during the 1974 re-organisation.
1983 saw the shaping of plans to reduce psychiatric services on the Sharoe Green site. The Avondale Unit opened at Royal Preston Hospital on 1 October 1983, admitting a number of former Sharoe Green patients who had been temporarily accommodated earlier in the year at Whittingham Hospital. The psychiatric day hospital remained at Sharoe Green Hospital until 1 December 1983. The psychiatric wards in the East block were vacated in order that they might be refurbished - this duly took place with the block re-opening on 8 August 1984. Psychiatric outpatient clinics continued in the hospital until 5 November 1985, before they too were transferred to the Avondale Unit.
As part of the plans for the imminent closure of Preston Royal Infirmary, the district’s obstetrics and gynaecology services were amalgamated at Sharoe Green Hospital in March 1986. The service was accommodated in the ward block built in 1968.
Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Barry Case carried out the last operation at the old Infirmary in April 1987. In the same month, the former Maternity Unit at Sharoe Green Hospital was re-opened for cold orthopaedic surgery after refurbishment costing £500,000. The unit consisted of 30 inpatient beds, 10 day case beds and two operating theatres.
April 1987 also witnessed the beginning of an attempt through artistic means to improve the quality of the environment within Sharoe Green Hospital. Facilitated by the artist Brian Phillips, a number of murals were erected, including a Blackpool Prom scene from the 1930s in the Garden Room and a Cottage mural in the day hospital for the elderly. In August 1989, two splendid murals depicting the history of the health service in Preston were unveiled in the main hospital entrance. A four-panelled mural of an English countryside cottage was then made for the X-Ray Department.
In 1988 the hospital played its part in the 40th anniversary celebrations of the NHS. Significantly, these celebrations occurred at a time when the Conservative government was undertaking a comprehensive review of the organisation of British healthcare. In January 1989, these deliberations were summarised in the White Paper “Working for Patients” which proposed a major change in the way the healthcare needs of the local population would be assessed and paid for. After that date, Sharoe Green joined the rest of the NHS service in making preparations for April 1991, the date on which many of the White Paper reforms were due to be implemented. One element of those preparations from May 1990 was the amalgamation for managerial purposes of the District’s Acute Division under one General manager, Mr Stephen Ashcroft.
At the end of 1990, Sharoe Green Hospital had a total of 325 beds in the specialties of medicine for the elderly, cold orthopaedics, obstetrics and gynaecology and paediatric intensive care. There was also the young disabled unit and a very busy outpatients department. Professional support departments on site included pharmacy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and the sterile supplies department. The hospital was also the main centre for the Lancashire College of Midwifery until 1992, until it became part of the University of Central Lancashire’s remit.
In 1994 there was reason to celebrate as Sharoe Green Hospital, together with Royal Preston Hospital, officially became the Preston Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. Becoming a Trust enabled the two hospitals to become better placed to respond to the many changes within the NHS and produce an even better service for patients.
However, in 1995, after long months of discussion between a cross-section of doctors, nursing staff and management, it was announced that there were plans for a radical restructuring of Royal Preston Hospital, enabling all major acute medical services in Preston to be delivered on one site. The implication for Sharoe Green Hospital being that it would eventually close.
The possible transfer of services was the focus of the Trust’s AGM in 1996, with Dr John Owen, the Trust’s Medical Director, explaining the clinical benefits of offering acute hospital services on a single site. It was explained that if the plans were to go ahead, a state-of-the-art maternity unit and new rehabilitation facilities for the elderly would be built at Royal Preston Hospital.
In the midst of these plans, the hospital continued to provide an excellent service to its patients and in May 1997 the maternity unit became one of only four hospitals in the country to be officially approved as ‘Baby Friendly’ when they won UNICEF’s UK Standard Award for Baby Friendly Hospitals.
In the same year, good news arrived for asthma sufferers as a drop-in centre opened at Sharoe Green, offering urgent treatment and advice for people in the early stages of an asthma attack.
In 1999 the restructuring of Royal Preston Hospital was again brought to the forefront when blueprint plans to close Sharoe Green Hospital and shift services to Royal Preston Hospital and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital were unveiled by health chiefs.
Under the transfer proposals, it was stated that all services would be taken over by Royal Preston Hospital, apart from orthopaedics, which would transfer to Chorley. The stand alone Neuro Rehabilitation Unit, based on the Sharoe Green site, would stay where it was.
Following public consultation, the scheme was approved and work commenced in January 2001, with the hope that the relocated clinical and support services would be fully operational by the end of 2003.
However, it was not until 2004 that Sharoe Green Hospital finally closed and services transferred. In May 2004 the new Medical Rehabilitation Unit opened, followed by the Maternity and Gynaecology Unit in September 2004 and then the Education Centre in December 2004.
To mark the closure of Sharoe Green, religious leaders from across Preston joined together to lead a special multi-faith service to celebrate Preston’s oldest hospital.
A number of past and present members of staff attended the service to reflect on their time at the hospital and say farewell to friends and colleagues.