The great and the good gathered at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on 29 January 1965 for the grand opening of a new operating theatre and sterile supplies department.
The £132,000 building costs described in the event’s glossy programme and brochure was among the first phase of works to transform the Vic into a district general hospital.
DGHs, as they would become known, were part of Minister of Health Enoch Powell’s 1962 “Hospital Plan” which proposed the development of 90 hospitals and the upgrading of another 134.
The new operating theatre would help meet the rising demand for surgery which had grown from 7,195 operations in 1950 to 13,515 by 1964. Last year, the hospital performed 17,005.
By 1966, the Hospital Plan had paid out £578,547 for new nurses’ accommodation and training school, and new outpatient, casualty, physiotherapy and rehabilitation departments (£447,184).
Powell’s was a 10-year plan but, perhaps predictably for such a huge programme, a new maternity unit to replace Glenroyd maternity hospital on Whitegate Drive and anticipated for 1967, was delayed. It finally opened in 1974.
Much of the 1960s developments have since been repurposed or superseded by new buildings but the Central Sterile Supply Department team still works from the 1965 site. A plaque commemorating the unveiling by Sir James Lythgoe, Chairman of the Manchester Regional Hospital Board, can still be seen on the main hospital corridor.
Much-modernised over the years, the principles of sterilisation and even the function of the equipment used today would be familiar to the staff of 60 years ago.
Surgical instruments and devices are still washed, disinfected, sorted, checked, boxed, wrapped and steam cleaned before being sent for use again.
In fact, some of the instruments, such a steel scalpel handles, can stay in use for decades and may have even in use when the department originally opened.