Thetford Cottage Hospital closes

It was one of the first hospitals in the country to buy an x-ray machine and helped thousands of Norfolk patients over its more than 100 year history. But Thetford Cottage Hospital closed its doors for the last time yesterday as officials prepared for a new health care era on the outskirts of the town centre.

It was one of the first hospitals in the country to buy an x-ray machine and helped thousands of Norfolk patients over its more than 100 year history.

But a Victorian hospital in Thetford closed its doors for the last time yesterday as officials prepared for a new health care era on the outskirts of the town centre.

A question mark now hangs over the future use of Thetford Cottage Hospital with fears that the historic redbrick building will be demolished to make way for housing.

The antiquated town centre facility completed its last appointments before being mothballed yesterday as health officials put the finishing touches to a new £4.5m one stop health shop, which opens next week .

James Romana-Powling, project manager for Norfolk PCT, said it was a sad day for the 19th century building, which will be officially replaced by the state-of-the-art Thetford Community Healthy Living Centre, off Croxton Road, on Tuesday.

“We might be leaving behind a nice old building, which has been a friend to many people over the years, but we are moving to a fantastic new building, which is fit for the growing population of Thetford,” he said.

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The old cottage hospital, in Earls Street, was built in the late 1800s and was given to the people of the town by the Fison family and William Gentry, who claimed a penny a week for rent. Over the years, the building received many extensions, including an x-ray wing, which was dedicated to the men of Thetford, who died in the Great War between 1914 and 1918.

In 1969, the hospital ceased inpatient beds, but still retained key services such as x-ray, physiotherapy, family planning, and other outpatient clinics until its closure, which was marked with an 'end of era' party last night and attended by about 50 past and present members of staff.

Ruth Chase, bank receptionist and former senior staff nurse, who organised the get together, said it would be a “shame” if the hospital was demolished for housing.

“The cottage hospital is quite small and cramped, but it is friendly and the present members of staff think that the new facility will not have the same atmosphere because it is more spread out. It will be very nice for the patients, but it will take a bit of getting used to,” she said.

The new healthy living centre will bring together existing cottage hospital services, new outpatient clinics such as podiatry, audiology, and dermatology, as well as community dentists, voluntary services, mental health nurses, and a new GP surgery, which will be managed by the School Lane practice.

An out of hours GP service from 6.30pm to 8am will also move to the centre and can be accessed by calling GP surgeries or Anglian Medical Care direct on 01603 488488.