Norfolk town needs new hospital as badly as it did 50 years ago

Betty Bond

Betty Bond, who was the first-ever patient admitted to the new Queen Elizabeth Maternity Unit, which was the first phase of King's Lynn's then-new hospital in 1971 - Credit: Bond Family

Tributes have been paid to a retired teacher who was the first patient ever treated at a Norfolk hospital.

Retired teacher Betty Bond from King's Lynn has passed away after a battle with Covid.

She was the first patient through the doors of the the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital and she and her premature baby were the first of countless lives to be saved there.

Her death comes as the QEH waits to learn whether it will be given funding for a replacement for its crumbling buildings.

Mrs Bond was rushed to the Lynn maternity unit after she went into labour prematurely with her second child on September 1, 1971. 

Her son Clive was born weighing just 3lbs 5oz shortly afterwards and spent two months in hospital before he was strong enough to go home.

Mrs Bond, who has passed away at the age of 84, taught at Gaywood Park Secondary School between 1964 and 1971, and went on to become a lecturer at the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology where she pioneered a new government scheme to help disadvantaged young people find work.

Bond Family

From left, Betty Bond with her husband Bill, daughter Gillian and son Clive - Credit: Bond Family

Her son, now 50, said: "She was remarkably successful, building good relations with local employers, securing on-job training and work for hundreds of young people from the area.

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"She gained a good reputation in and far beyond King’s Lynn, based on her social work skills and understanding, ability to enable young people to get qualifications, then into work when often traditional schooling had failed them."

Mr Bond said his mother, who retired in 1993, caught Covid around Easter. 

"I thought I’d shielded my Mum through the pandemic," he said. "Sadly, I and she caught it just before Easter, when the virus nationally was circulating in its highest numbers.

"It seems many of my father and mother’s friends and generation here have sadly been touched by Omicron variant in this devastating way in recent months."

After being cared for at home for some weeks by Mr Bond and his sister Gillian, 54, Mrs Bond was admitted to the QEH, which had saved her life as she gave birth prematurely just over half a century previously.

Mr Bond paid tribute to the dedication of hospital staff, who battled around the clock to keep her alive until she lost her fight with the virus.

Clive Bond

Clive Bond with the silver spoon he was presented with for being the first baby to be born at the QEH - Credit: Chris Bishop

"My mother nearly died in September 1971, with me," he said. "She was saved by a ground breaking team in the maternity ward as I was so premature and she was very ill.

"The expertise, the equipment and the staff were there, the hospital has been there since and we, like so many in west Norfolk and beyond have depended on this hub of care and clinical expertise."

The new maternity unit, which cost £635,000, was the first phase of the new £6m hospital that became operational a decade later.

At its official opening Sir Stephen Lycett-Green, chair of the East Anglian Regional Hospital Board, said three quarters of the way through the 20th Century, it was "high time Lynn had a 20th Century hospital".

Clive Bond as a baby in the QEH Picture: The Bond family

Clive Bond as a baby in the QEH after being the first baby to be born at the hospital - Credit: Bond Family

When it opened, the state-of-the-art hospital had an expected working life of 30 years. It is still operational more than four decades later, with more than 1,500 props holding up its concrete roof planks - at a cost over the last year of £20m, more than three times what the entire hospital originally cost to build.

After missing out on government funding for a new-build 18 months ago, staff are waiting to hear whether it will be one of eight further rebuilds due to be announced soon.

A prop holding up the roof at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

An example of one of the 131 props in place around the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, including its kitchen and Rudham ward. - Credit: QEH

"We urgently need the announcement from central government of investment in a new hospital," said Mr Bond. "It has to happen now, really.

"You need to respect the people who work in these sites, these environments and give them the right facilities, the right equipment."

Mrs Bond passed away on May 3. She was pre-deceased by her husband Bill, who died at the age of 83 in 2016.

Her funeral service is at Our Lady's Roman Catholic Church in London Road, King's Lynn on Friday, May 20 (2.45 pm).