05 Mar


Beccles War Memorial hospital opened in 1924. It was funded from local donations, and was initially run by the local council.  In 1948 responsibility for the running of the hospital and its estate transferred to the newly created NHS.

The original 1920s building comprised outpatient department, male and female wards, kitchen and associated ancillary areas.  Fortunately the hospital was established with a degree of foresight, being situated in extensive grounds which have proved beneficial as services and accommodation have grown over the years.

The local GP practice moved into Caxton Villa adjoining the hospital site and they also occupied the Health Centre which was built in 1984

Minsmere Ward, originally providing over 30 in-patient community beds was added to the hospital in 1989.
LSI became involved in 2009 when the commissioning body (the former Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT) was considering the future of primary health care in the central Waveney area.  We looked at a range of options for relocating the hospital, rebuilding on the current site and redeveloping the current site whilst keeping it running.  This latter option was selected as being the most cost effective and least disruptive option.

Working with the PCT and site stake holders Beccles Medical Centre and East Coast Community Healthcare, we undertook with Finnamore a space utilisation study to develop a full understanding of the space available, its quality and how effectively it was being used. From this, recommendations for improved efficiency in room allocation could be made, whilst the study also showed where there were shortfalls in accommodation, particularly clinical space of the right kind.

A master plan was prepared that prioritised the consolidation of pre and post natal childrens’ services, and increasing and improving GP consulting space to current standards.  To enable this, the Community Pharmacy had to be relocated from the Health Centre and new accommodation for District Nurses, School Nurse Team and Health Visitors created.  At the same time the opportunity arose to relocate the hospital kitchen as an enabling project, placing this nearer the ward. The phlebotomy department was relocated and expanded closer to the entrance of the hospital making using it easier for patients
The process has been highly incremental, with the multiple phasing and decanting to be expected whilst carrying out extensive works within a functioning hospital environment. Preserving the patient pathway and controlling disturbance to the clinical experience have been paramount considerations in the planning and execution stages of each phase.

A considerable portion of the on-site services infrastructure has been updated. A new substation and standby generator have been provided to ensure enhanced site resilience, and new fire alarm system, nurse call and phone systems have been installed, along with a new heating system with solar thermal top up in the health centre.

Nearing completion within the original 1924 hospital building is a new server room and two new outpatient treatment rooms.  We are about to embark on the final phase of redevelopment within the Health Centre of a further six consult exam rooms, which will complete the provision of 23 clinical rooms to current space and infection control standards.  Also about to start is the upgrade of the physiotherapy department, allowing improved access and an increase in gym space.

Future plans include improvements to Minsmere ward, with a particular emphasis on enhanced privacy and dignity for patients, and the relocation of the main entrance to the hospital building, improving access to the Minor Injuries Unit.  In the pipeline are functional and visual enhancements to the car park and pedestrian access.

As the NHS is reshaped in order to overcome gaps in health and wellbeing, in care and quality and in funding and efficiency, by increasing integration of health and social care services, locations like Beccles, at some distance from the nearest District General Hospital should become more important in the delivery of these services to local communities.

Jeremy O’Rourke