Over the next three weeks I am going to share with you the memories of a former Hospital Administrator of Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
In 1964 when I went there, the New Site (as we always called it) was one of the very few new hospital buildings of the NHS, which was still in its infancy. Capital expenditure was very closely controlled – Bevan found that the running costs of the service were about double the estimates he was given in 1945. So in the early 1960s the only other development of comparable size in the UK was the new Guys House (at Guys Hospital), and the two vied for showing off to visitors from within the service – I showed round 3 of the Chief Officers I had known in my training in the West Midlands from 1961-4. I also remember showing round a party of Americans. They were less impressed than the British visitors! We also had a hospital guide ( a woman – I think she might have been a volunteer) who showed round parties of local people – WI members etcetera; and not only from Cambridge – they came every week (we had to ration them) from all of East Anglia to see the wondrous new 20th century hospital, unlike anything they had ever seen.
I was only 24, and this was my first responsible job. I had been on a national graduate entry scheme which had started in 1959; half of us (only 8!) were trained from a London base, the King’s Fund, and half in Manchester, at the University’s Department of Social Administration, under the charismatic Professor Teddy Chester, an Austrian Jew who had anglicised his name.
Because we were so few, and the 1948 crop of hospital administrators were generally despised by doctors as ‘Clerks and Stewards’, we were treated as an elite and we were often over-promoted while still inexperienced. So this was my first test after 2 1/2 years of sitting round observing and listening.
I found the experience daunting but exhilarating. It was a most peculiar hospital, in that it was unbalanced. It consisted of a massive Outpatient department – much larger than the Outpatients which had been left behind at Trumpington Street – with a 4-story ward block containing only orthopaedics and Neurosurgery/neurology; plus diagnostic and therapeutic departments, some interesting adjuncts such as Medical Photography, and most controversially, an Accident and Emergency Department. Controversial because there was no inpatient back-up for patients who needed to be treated or diagnosed by any specialty other than Orthopaedics or Neurosurgery. Nor was there any resident 24-hour medical cover for specialties other than these two. So patients with heart failure, for example, would be seen by a Casualty Officer, and probably shunted to the old site, with the obvious risks associated with delay and misdiagnosis. Of course, ambulance crews were aware of this, and would sometimes take patients direct to the old site, where there was a sort of Admissions room. This wasn’t really fair on the ambulance crews. Neurosurgery was a regional specialty, so patients were being brought not only from Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County (separate services in those days) but also by crews from as far away as Cromer and Woodbridge.