Another step towards safeguarding the future of Westminster Memorial Hospital in Shaftesbury for local people was taken last week with the opening of a new one-way access road, writes Richard Thomas.
The project, officially opened by Lord Lieutenant of Dorset Angus Campbell and Dorset Council chair Val Pothecary, links two access roads as well as adding extra parking spaces for patients.
It means patients will now come into the hospital along Magdalene Lane and leave along Abbey Walk, thus alleviating the bottleneck that used to exist at the main entrance.
Parking spaces have also increased from 44 to 49.
The £250,000 scheme was entirely funded by the Friends of the Hospital chaired by Julian Prichard who led the successful Save Our Beds! campaign that saved the hospital in 2017.
The Friends have spent nearly all the charity’s £1 million reserves on improving the hospital to save it for local patients. This has included buying an adjacent building in Abbey Walk now used by a mental health charity and an electric vehicle to transport patients.
Dorset Healthcare Trust,which owns the hospital, said: ‘These new arrangements will greatly improve the experience of local people attending the hospital for appointments or when visiting loved ones, as well as staff.
Chris Lawrence, Dorset HealthCare’s director of estates and facilities, said: ‘Westminster Memorial Hospital is an important part of our portfolio for the future, and we are very grateful to the Friends for funding this project.
“The new access road has helped resolve a ‘pinch point’ where vehicles were entering and leaving through one entrance. The improved traffic flow will benefit staff and patients, and provide a better visitor experience overall.’
Dorset Healthcare added that as part of this project the Trust worked closely with Wessex Archaeology and Dorset Council’s senior archaeologist to save and identify a large number of medieval stones unearthed during the excavations – some of which may have come from the adjoining great abbey demolished after the Dissolution of the monastries by Henry VIII in 1539.
Among the most notable finds was an ancient well that has been ‘appropriately preserved’ and now sits under the road surface, the Trust said.