Architect of original West Suffolk Hospital returns as patient on NHS anniversary

Former architect Bob Yearby Picture: WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL

Former architect Bob Yearby Picture: WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL - Credit: Archant

The architect for the original West Suffolk Hospital building in 1972 has returned as a patient on the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

Bob Yearby, 87, arrived in Bury St Edmunds 46 years ago to be the site architect for the £2.5million project to build the town hospital.

As the NHS celebrates 70 years of care today, Bob is back at the hospital for an operation.

He said: “I spent around two years on the job, and I was commuting in from London on the train at the time. Though now I’m a local man as I live in Sudbury, so I’m under the care of one of the hospitals I helped to build.”

It was Bob’s responsibility as site architect to make sure everything from clearing land and installing water, sewage, electric and gas systems were done properly.

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“It was a big operation,” he said. “It was close to £2.5m to build this site, which was a heck of a lot of money back then. In those days you were doing hospitals for around half a million, so this was a state-of-the-art hospital.”

The hospital was part of the Government’s ‘best buy’ system, which was essentially a blueprint for a new hospital build.

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“The template was like a cross, and you just put the wards in like a jigsaw,” Bob said.

“There were seven or eight hospitals around here that were all of the same design concept. They had the same number of wards, same number of beds – everything. The only modification people really made in the past was the front entrance.”

The former architect says he cannot believe just how much the site has expanded over the years.

“It’s changed a tremendous amount,” he said. “Now the build has gone out over the back, down the sides, there’s labs and a new children’s area.

“There was nothing like that when we first built it. But all the roof panels are still there, and the ceilings, exactly as I remember them going in. “A big truck came in with the ceiling tiles, the beds and everything in between – all of it.”

He added: “It feels very weird coming back now. But it’s a wonderful hospital, I think the people and the staff here are just absolutely terrific.

“I used the hospital about 12 years ago for an operation and now I’m back for another one.

“I’ve always had excellent care here. Even in the early days when we were doing construction work the cafeteria and coffee shops were good and looked after us.”

On the special anniversary of the NHS, Bob paid tribute to the service and its employees.

“Well, the NHS is just a lifesaver all round isn’t it?” he said.

“I mean, a lot of people wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for the NHS. I can remember my mum going to the doctors and having to pay half a crown, but not now.

“Every person makes a difference here though. It doesn’t matter if you’re a surgeon or if you clean the wards – one can’t do without the other.

“If the cleaner doesn’t do their job properly the surgeon is wasting their time. It’s one big team.”

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