Hospital celebrates 50th anniversary

Posted on July 6, 2020 by AireAdmin
Airedale Hospital

Airedale Hospital is celebrating its 50th anniversary, in the same week that the NHS has its 72nd birthday.  As well as marking the golden milestone with its own celebrations, the hospital is asking people to post their messages of support on social media, and to share any memories they have from the last 50 years.

Some history…

Before Airedale Hospital was built Keighley had two hospitals, Victoria and St John’s. St John’s was built to serve the Keighley Poor Law Union and was an auxiliary hospital in the Great War, later specialising in maternity and elderly care. Victoria Hospital began in 1876 as a cottage hospital with 8 beds, a matron, a girl to help her and a kitchen table was used for operations. Local doctors attended for free and funds were raised from donations and voluntary contributions. Both hospitals closed in 1970 when Airedale opened.

In 1963 it was announced Airedale Hospital would be built in Eastburn after debates over whether it should be in Skipton or Keighley The site was considered a compromise but as it was large and level it meant building would be easier and quicker, in a planned 2-3 years rather than the usual 10 for a hospital of its size. The cost was estimated at £3-4m.

Airedale Hospital then opened its doors to the first patients on Sunday 5 July 1970 when 60 patients were transferred from Victoria hospital. The move only took 3 hours in 12 ambulances helped by 180 of the first hospital volunteers.


In December 1970 the hospital was then officially opened by HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. The visit overran because the Prince spent so long talking to staff and patients during his extensive tour and a large marquee was set up in the grounds for a celebratory lunch.

In 1970 during the first year the hospital saw 10,000 patients admitted, 1500 babies born, 25,000 accident cases treated and 40,000 outpatient attendances.  By comparison to the present day where the hospital admits around 26,000 inpatients, has 70,000 emergency department attendances, 2000 babies born and 155,000 outpatients, along with 26,000 telemedicine contacts every year. 

Today Airedale is an award winning NHS hospital and community services trust with over 2,500 staff and 350 committed volunteers.  The hospital continues to lead the way with innovation and technology, it has two mobile cancer units, treats patients via telemedicine links and is constantly updating its estate with a new theatre unit underway for 2021 and an entire ward block planned for the future.

Brendan Brown, Chief Executive, Airedale NHS Foundation Trust says:

“As a small district general hospital and community trust, we have always punched above our weight.  We are agile, able to change swiftly and adjust to new demands on our services.  This has never more shown itself to be true than in recent months.

Everything we do is about serving our population, keeping our community at our heart, and this will be our ambition for the next 50 years. Our estate has changed substantially since 1970; in recent years we’ve completely upgraded our Emergency department, built a new acute assessment unit and redeveloped our laboratories.  We already have work underway to create additional theatres and we have exciting future plans for an entire new ward block, all so Airedale can continue to lead the way for innovation and care.

We are hugely appreciative of the support and trust we receive from local people and I hope that we honour that trust in the compassionate care we provide. I am too enormously proud of our staff and volunteers who continue to go above and beyond, never more so than now as we face these unprecedented challenges together.”

Andrew Gold, Chair, Airedale NHS Foundation Trust says:

“I am inordinately proud of the services we provide and of Airedale’s position in our community.  As a local resident and user of healthcare services, I remain totally committed to leading the Board of Airedale that all wants the Trust to be the best it can be; now and so it continues to thrive in the future.”

Although the hospital’s plans for celebrations next week are smaller than originally planned, staff will all receive a commemorative pin badge provided by the Airedale Hospital and Community charity and the trust will also be:

  • Taking part in the national Clap for Key Workers at 5pm on Sunday 5 July, which is also the NHS’s 72nd birthday
  • Encouraging wards and departments to have their own socially distanced parties with mini event bags
  • Providing cream teas, funded by the staff lottery, for staff working on Friday 10 July
  • Staff and members of the community are taking part in sponsored 50/50 challenges, with the proceeds being divided equally between the Airedale Hospital & Community Charity and Friends of Airedale