The 512-bed site has ten wards and was financed under a Private Finance Initiative [PFI], which was controversial at the time due to the use of private money to fund NHS buildings.
Plans for the hospital were also being drawn up just as the UK experienced the financial crash in 2008.
The £225millon hospital was built to serve around half a million people in West Kent. Construction started in 2008 and took more than three years to complete.
The state-of-the-art facility replaced both Pembury County Hospital – a former Victorian workhouse which stood on the same site – and the ageing Kent & Sussex Hospital on Mount Ephraim.
At the time of its opening, Tunbridge Wells Hospital was hailed as being one of the most modern NHS medical facilities of its kind. All the rooms were en-suite with patient-controlled temperature systems, solar control glass windows, and flat screen TVs, while most also had views of the Kent countryside.
Over the last ten years the hospital has treated nearly three million people and more than 53,000 babies have been born at the Pembury maternity unit.
Miles Scott, Chief Executive of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust [MTW], said: “It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since the official opening, but we have also achieved so much during this time.
“The hospital was the first NHS hospital to provide every inpatient with their own room and this enabled us to transform infection control, which has served us extremely well during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have brought together our theatres, critical care unit, short stay surgical unit and surgical admissions so they are co-located and working in an integrated way.
“This has enabled us to maximise operating capacity to cut waiting times and deliver emergency surgery at the same time.
“As a result, we have seen one of the fastest recoveries in the NHS from waiting lists built up over the pandemic.
“I’m very proud to be leading such a fantastic team and am grateful for the hard work and dedication of all the staff at MTW.
“We have many exciting plans for the future, including the new medical student accommodation and academic teaching building, to ensure we continue to deliver outstanding care to our patients.”
He continued by explaining his hopes for the future of the hospital: “Our dedicated education space is a huge asset to the Trust and has been successfully used to train a whole new generation of doctors, nurses and health professionals, incorporating the latest education approaches, such as simulation rooms.
“We are also focusing on our green agenda, such as energy-efficient building practice to reduce our carbon emissions, the move towards buying power generated by solar or wind, and moving to electric vehicles and reducing journeys taken across the Trust.”
PROJECT WAS ‘TOUCH AND GO’, MP RECALLS
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark has spoken of the battle to ensure the Pembury-based hospital was given the go-ahead.
The MP recalled the planning of the project coincided with the financial crash of 2008. The hospital was one of the only major projects given the go-ahead by the Gordon Brown Government at the time, following the collapse of the banks.
Mr Clark agreed that it was ‘hard to believe a decade has passed since the opening of the hospital’.
He went on to say: “We are lucky to have a hospital that is still one of the most modern in Britain, and increasingly important as a teaching hospital.
“It was touch and go whether we would get the hospital approved.
“I remember going to see the Health Secretary in his office and describing the wooden huts that were still in use for patients in Pembury and, sadly, the C. difficile infections at the Kent & Sussex.
“But the tidal wave of the financial crisis was about to engulf us, that halted many important projects.
“When the go-ahead was given to me in the House of Commons on March 18, 2008, Pembury was the very last new hospital to be approved before the shutters came down as the banks closed and Government spending was restricted.
“A hospital is more than a building, and the staff have experienced the toughest times of their careers during Covid. They have done a magnificent job, but I am relieved that they were able to do it in a state-of-the-art hospital.”
Editor’s note: Greg Clark must take much of the credit for the development of the hospital. Without his constant campaigning and pressing for a ‘state-of-the-art’ facility it may well not have happened.
HOSPITAL HIGHS AND LOWS OF THE LAST TEN YEARS
• In the last ten years of delivering health care, Tunbridge Wells Hospital has treated more than 2.8 million patients.
• This includes more than 742,000 visitors to the emergency department and more than 142,000 patients undergoing operations, as well as 1,874,000 outpatient appointments.
• Around 53,000 children have been born at the hospital between September 2011 – when it opened – and today.
• Around 2,820 nurses, doctors and other members of staff currently work at the Pembury facility, but the hospital has come under pressure for some of its frontline services in recent years.
• In 2019, MTW, the Trust that runs the hospital, was ranked 131 out of 131 NHS trusts in getting patients to start cancer treatment within 62 days of a GP referral.
• The Government target for cancer treatment following a GP referral is 85 per cent of patients, with MTW only achieving 63.3 per cent, ranking it bottom of England and Wales at the time.
• By April last year MTW had reversed the situation and announced it had now hit the Government’s cancer target 12 months in a row.