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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Tribute to the 'Vic'

Some readers of this blog may be wondering where I disappeared to over the past week and I have to explain that the absence of random utterances have been entirely due to my being given due care and attention at Victoria Hospital. A sudden and most

debilitating condition required hospitalisation from which I emerged today albeit under licence. Hopefully a prognosis will allow the blog to return to a more predictable output in the very near future.

But in the meantime having endured the admissions portal of a&e and being witness to the daily stresses and strains on NHS staff at all levels, from ambulance and emergency workers, to nurses, doctors and specialists - I have nothing but admiration for the effort which goes into delivery of vital medical treatment to the public. Given the intensity of pressures on A&E with many peaks and few troughs - it is a tribute to the constant dedication given to patients of all ages, sizes and conditions day in and day out, that Blackpool and the Fylde coast have such a centre of medical excellence and delivery.

Certainly there are and have been instances of errors in individual cases which fall short (sometimes far short) of required standards - but these are exceptional indeed. I had my first encounter at the Vic when I must have been 9 or 10 and required treatment of an asthmatic condition, which fortunately receded very quickly, not to return since. In those days Hospital Wards were subject to the constant monitoring of 'Matrons' - a sort of female sergeant major of the time - watching over nurses, doctors and patients with a sometimes fearsome demeanour. Starched white caps and blouses were de rigeur for nurses (and Matrons); whilst all doctors came in white coats trailing stethoscopes, which is how it seemed at the time. Beds were all made up in a regimented manner to a required spacing and with little in the form of personal accoutrements on display - although vases of flowers were a frequent sight on bedside tables. No longer floral gifts for the ailing are permitted it seems.

Blackpool bus services to the Victoria in those days were the 23 and 15A from Newton Drive and the town centre - alwaysBurlingham bodied double deckers and parked neatly alongside the iron and glass tram type shelter which was the only concession to passenger comfort in those days. Other services were added (and subtracted) over the decades with no precise pattern. Today the hospital has expanded out of all recognition from the classic structure built during the 1920s (along with Stanley Park) to replace the by then limited building; which in turn was erected alongside Whitegate Drive's construction two decades previously (together with a new electric tramway).

The writer has strongly urged consideration by the LA to take a long hard look at extending the new tramway being constructed from Talbot Square to North Station all the way along Talbot Road and through Layton Square (much like Victoria Square in Cleveleys) up the modest incline which leads to Newton Drive and St Walburgas Road - and straight into Victoria Hospital grounds. A side benefit being proximity to Stanley Park and Blackpool Zoo. At one time consideration was made to a tram extension from Whitegate Drive directly into the park itself. Alas this was turned down and instead a shuttle service of diminutive toastrack type open buses operated a 'Park Service' from the promenade during the summer months. They terminated outside the main gates along with other services where a photographic trade took place recording images of each busy (usually full) vehicle complete with passengers in their best clothes (and occasionally the corporation driver completing the scene). They are splendid reminders of those once fine times for the town.

However this blog ends with tribute to all the staff at Victoria Hospital who treated with considerable kindness (if not sympathy) during my sojourn in the medical observation unit whilst nurses, doctors and wellwishers urged on my speedy exit !

Not quite Victoria Hospital but built in the same era - a serious and well dressed full load of visitors awaiting the journey back to the 'prom' from Stanley Park Gates in the late 1920s. The photographer's record of this image is a harbinger of tramcar preservation for all those so interested ! John Woodman Archive.

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