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Celebration of Doncaster hospital’s proud history

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It’s fitting that we have just celebrated the NHS’s 70th anniversary in the same month as Doncaster Royal Infirmary (DRI) has clocked up a magnificent 150 years of care, treating innumerable patients in that time, with countless local people having much to thank it for.

If you enjoy local history and are looking for a good read, I can recommend a great new book by a Doncaster born author who knows all about the hospital’s long and proud history.

Good Health – A Pictorial Celebration of Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, provides a fascinating insight into the development of hospital care in the Doncaster area spanning three centuries. Author Garry Swann takes you on a 100-page long journey that starts from humble beginnings on the 1 July 1868, when the Doncaster General Infirmary and Dispensary opened in Wood Street to treat its first patients. It had 23 beds on two floors and was paid for entirely by local people.

Within 50 years, Doncaster’s population had swelled to 28,000, largely due to the expansion of the local coal mining and railway industries and a bigger hospital was needed.

Through Garry’s extensive research we are told that, after a long debate, a large site on Thorne Road was settled on and building began in 1928, though money quickly ran out. Eventually, a much smaller building than was originally proposed opened in 1930, and staff did their best to manage the increasing demands for care.

Since then DRI as we now know it, has gone from strength to strength and expanded to fill every corner of its current site. It now encompasses Bassetlaw, Montagu and Retford hospitals, which are also referenced in the book.

Garry has lived and breathed a good chunk of DRI’s life. Having trained as a photographer, in 1966 he was appointed to set up the Department of Medical Photography and since retiring 12 years ago has been the Trust’s Honorary Archivist.

His distinguished career and passion for his work were rewarded in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours, when he was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to the NHS.

Over the years, Garry has meticulously chronicled an archive of photographs, documents and other memorabilia which have proved a rich source of material for his book. Garry’s book covers the first 150 years and I’m sure there will be many more to come.

Costing £6.99, Good Health can be purchased online or at each of the Trust’s sites. All proceeds from will be donated to the newly formed Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals’ Charity.