Friday, 30 January 2015

Hospital Hub to include museum items

Budleigh Hospital Hub project development manager Rob Jones with a jar used for storing live leeches by 19th century doctors. Barts Hospital in London used 100,000 leeches annually to bleed patients

A Victorian surgeon’s set of instruments, cupping therapy equipment and  a leech jar are among the artefacts that could be on view for visitors to Budleigh Salterton’s new Health and Wellbeing Hospital Hub. But patients can rest assured that the items will remain in glass cabinets as medical curiosities.

If, like me, you tend to visit doctors’ surgeries and hospitals more often than you would like, the chances are you’ll wonder how our various ailments were treated in the past.  And how they’ll be dealt with in the years ahead. CT scans, hip replacements, robotic surgery and laser eye treatment would all seem miraculous to patients and doctors of just a century ago. As for genetic engineering, we can only dream of how diseases like cancer will be avoided in the future.

Budleigh Salterton’s Hospital on East Budleigh Road

Such is medical progress. And it’s an area which the planners of Budleigh Salterton’s new Health and Wellbeing Hub are keen to display for visitors to the transformed Community Hospital.  

Plans for the NHS-backed transformation were announced by Budleigh GP Rick Mejzner at the annual meeting of the Hospital’s League of Friends in July last year. The types of services which could be available in the new Hub include additional physiotherapy, podiatry, hospice services and audiology.

Clinics offering specialist healthcare for elderly patients will run alongside the day hospital and will be complemented by a respite centre, as well as other services run in partnership with charities such as Age Concern and the Alzheimer’s Society.

“The Hub will offer support, information and educational resources to people of all ages and backgrounds, with a focus on preventing illness at the earliest stages, says Hospital project development manager Rob Jones of Westbank Community Health and Care which is leading the project.

Architects David Wilson Associates have developed designs for the Hub, due to be opened in late summer 2015 following the start of building work in January. 


A 19th century Assistant Naval Surgeon’s Capital Set  in "a superior Brass-bound Mahogany Case, lined with Silk Velvet"  as described in the supplier's catalogue. It contains forceps, catheters, probes, knives, screw tourniquets, a tooth punch and a skull saw among other items. Manufactured by Evans & Wormull it was known as a  Capital Set because of the Capital Knife, used for amputations on board ship.

The saw would be used to sever the bone. The average amputation of a leg would take two and half minutes. 
Image courtesy of the Devon and Exeter Medical Society 

The idea for the displays of medical equipment from the past came about after visitors to Fairlynch Museum’s 2013 exhibition were shown items that the 19th century Budleigh physician Henry John Carter FRS might have used. 

“We’re keen to tell the story of the building of Budleigh Hospital and the way that medicine has developed over the centuries,” explains Rob Jones. “The Hospital Hub is extremely grateful to Professor David Radstone of the Devon and Exeter Medical Society which has built up a fantastic collection of fascinating items from the past that we’re being allowed to display.”   

On view in the new Hub will also be profiles of some of the eminent doctors who have lived in the Budleigh area, thanks to research by volunteers at Fairlynch Museum. 


Some local people know about Dr Thomas Brushfield, pictured above, who lived at The Cliff on Cliff Road in Budleigh and wrote about Sir Walter Ralegh and East Budleigh church. Not too many are aware that he was a pioneer in the treatment of the mentally ill in a more enlightened way.

Other notable medical experts from Budleigh’s past include the surgeon Marmaduke Sheild, who has a chair of pharmacology at Cambridge University named after him. 


Photo courtesy of the National Museum of the Royal Navy 

There is also Murray Levick, the naval medical officer  who settled in retirement on the outskirts of the town.  As the doctor and zoologist on the ill-fated Terra Nova Antarctic expedition of 1910-13 he was the subject of Fairlynch’s recent two-year exhibition about Captain Scott’s Northern Party.

Curiously, some of the Victorian items on display would be recognised by some medical practitioners today. In the 19th century, Barts Hospital in London used 100,000 leeches annually to bleed patients. The use of leeches in modern medicine made its comeback in the 1980s after years of decline, with the advent of microsurgeries, such as plastic and reconstructive surgeries.


Lady Gaga during the ArtRave Tour
Image credit Zlouiemark45546

And although most doctors would say that modern science has not found any benefits of cupping there are many supporters today of this most ancient of practices in Chinese medicine, including celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga, and even tennis ace Andy Murray.

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