MUCH has been heard of the Big Society recently. But it is not a new thing. The Big Society has been alive and well at Horsham Hospital for more than a hundred years.
Between 1892 and 1948 Horsham Hospital was officially classed as a Voluntary Hospital, run by unpaid managers, volunteer doctors and financed almost exclusively through community fundraising.
Volunteers called on households each week to collect one penny which entitled the payer to free treatment at the hospital, if ever needed. An early form of health insurance. Each year a sum of £1,200 was raised to pay for the running of the hospital, until the creation of the NHS in 1948.
During the Second World War and into the 1950s the Horsham Hospital Supporters’ Association raised many thousands of pounds to keep the work going, and they were followed by the League of Friends of Horsham Hospital, launched in 1959.
The league was created with a gift of £40. Since then it has gone from strength to strength and during its 50th anniversary year in 2009 it was announced that the league had raised and donated more than £2m towards hospital work.
The biggest year in the league’s history came in 2005 when members donated £400,000 towards the hospital’s major £11m redevelopment.
The league’s money comes mainly from regular fundraising events which bring in about £30,000 each year including the summer fete, bazaar, tea bar, shop, book sales and numerous other events. This is considerably boosted by donations, subscriptions and many generous legacies.
The league’s main role is fundraising, however it also consulted by health managers during periods of change and it has often campaigned to save services at Horsham.
Anyone wishing to become a member of the league can obtain an application from the hospital reception and the membership fee is only £1 per year. Anyone wishing to make a donation should make contact with the league chairman, June Smith, on 01403 253932.
One of the most important events of the year is the Hospital Summer Fete which has become one of the highlights of the Horsham scene ever since the first one was opened by Harry Secombe in 1959.
This year’s fete, which I have the honour of opening, takes place on Saturday, May 21, 2-4pm when a string of attractions will include The Slinfold Concert Band and many activities for children. I hope to see lots of readers there!
MP for Horsham