Share your story

We’d love to hear your stories about Westminster Memorial Hospital, from staff, past and present, patients or family members.

Just fill in the comments box at the foot of the page and we’ll add your story.

Thank you.

21 thoughts on “Share your story

  1. I was brought up in Shaftesbury and attended St Mary’s School till I left for further studies/work in London and now live in Surrey although my mother still lives in Shaftesbury. My father died nearly 3 years ago after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He spent his last weeks at the hospital where he was looked after so well before finally deciding he wanted to die at home. It meant so much to my mother and family that he was be able to be cared for locally and we had regular visits from a lovely lady from Weldmar. I really wish there was something that I could do to make sure that Shaftesbury does not lose this hospital for future patients and their relatives, it does mean so much to the community and makes it possible for the elderly or sick to be visited more regularly by their loved ones and local relatives.

  2. Sir,

    I totally oppose the notion that the WMH should close its beds to substitute a “Hub” proposal. Doubtless the Hub is a good idea; it must be found space elsewhere in Shaftesbury, with the step-down care beds & the OP services at WMH retained.

    Thank you,

    Martyn Thornington (Dr)


  3. I desperately needed care at WMH and though my GP recommended it to Salisbury Hospital, I couldn’t even get a bed and had to spend months crawling around my home, failing at looking after myself until I finally got carers.

    If anything, it needs more beds. Looking to the recent past and the catastrophic failure of closing mental health wards and the couldn’t care less in the community that has resulted in suicides, murders and a complete lack of provision for those who are acutely unwell with mental health problems, who find themselves locked in police cells for three days and finally lumped in a bed halfway up the country, you’d think there would be a hesitancy to remove more crucial branches of our health service.

    It’s a disgrace. Leave our hospital alone.

  4. I am a senior member of Shaftesbury (for 20 years) and need a simple day surgery op. I have been given the ‘choice’ of Blandford – for consultation only! Poole, Dorchester and Yeovil. I will need transport and do not have family close by. I have always received good care at Odstock Hospital. Is this ‘change’ ensuring the best possible services for our patients, or caring for us closer to our homes? As the CCG assures us of?

  5. My grandmother broke her neck – she reached a point where acute care at Salisbury was no longer appropriate but still needed specialised care to eat and to go to the loo as well as Physio. The care she required could not have been given at home. She suffered from depression and without the constant stream of family and friends as well as her Parish Priest, she would have died. Public transport in this are is absolutely hopeless and many elderly visitors no longer drive. Also, my friend’s mother who was in her sixties had terminal cancer and was too frail to return home. She spent her last two weeks in the Westminster Hospital with appropriate pain relief and surrounded by her family. She had a good death (if there is such a thing) thanks to the Westminster and their amazing staff.

  6. We need to retain all medical and clinical beds at the Westminster Memorial Hospital as we need local services for local people. Not everyone is able to travel to other hospitals without the fantastic support from all the staff I would not have been able to spend quality time with my husband in his final days.

  7. We need to retain all medical and clinical beds at the Westminster Memorial Hospital, Shaftesbury, as we need Shaftesbury to keep local services for local people. Not everyone is able to travel to other hospitals. I lost my father recently and without the bed at W.M.H. and the fantastic staff my father would not have died with dignity and peace. It enabled him to come home to die peacefully he knew and loved.

  8. This is a fantastic community hospital which I have used many times. Not all people are able to travel to Salisbury or Dorchester due to age and health issues.

  9. This is a fantastic community hospital which I have used many times. Not all people are able to travel to Salisbury or Dorchester due to age and health issues.

  10. As a rural area, it is essential that there are local facilities that are accessible. As an NHS psychologist, I know the the wellbeing of patients will suffer.

  11. As a rural area, it is essential that there are local facilities that are accessible. As an NHS psychologist, I know the the wellbeing of patients will suffer.

  12. Having experienced
    the benefits of having my elderly mother in hospital in the medical beds, I am very aware of the benefits of having a local hospital. Travelling distances puts extra strain on the family.

  13. For the attention of the Dorset Commissioning Group
    As a resident of Shaftesbury for nigh on 25 years, and one who has attended presentations of the proposals for the changes to our healthcare system, I feel that I would like my recent experiences to be considered.
    My husband unfortunately died in March 2016 after a long industrial illness. Most of the time I was able to care for him at home with the aid of a very caring medical practice, and other back up services. Just before Easter last year (Maundy Thursday to be exact) his condition deteriorated, and I was very apprehensive about his care over the Bank Holiday period. However, our GP managed to secure a bed for him at The Westminster Hospital in Shaftesbury. An ambulance was sent for about 3.30pm, and finally arrived from Weymouth to take him the short distance to the Westminster at 11.30pm approx (I refer to this as being an example where ‘big’ is bad!!). Before anyone comments ‘why could he not have gone by car such a short distance, – it was a medical decision because of his condition). Sadly, he passed away in the hospital on the following Tuesday morning, having been cared for extremely well in the last few days of his life. I myself was feeling exhausted, and very grateful, for the help the Westminster gave. Although I drive, I do not think I would have been able to have visited him so easily had I had to travel far, and I am very much aware that as we get older we rely on public service vehicles which are becoming a rarity in Shaftesbury, Gillingham and the surrounding areas. I also recall being a patient myself in Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, in the 1950s. There was no bed blocking, for if patients were not quite ready for discharge to their homes, then they were sent to ‘Wenham Holt’ a convalescent homer a few miles away (on the main A3) for a few days (up to a fortnight) and then sent home or elsewhere when facilities were right for complete discharge. Hence, why are we not learning lessons from our past, and using this kind of facility? Patients would still be under the care of the NHS, unlike the woolly headed idea currently being bandied about using care homes, which do not cater for convalescents? I also think the geography comes into this whole scheme. Does the CCG actually know much about the area, if they did they would realise mileage is a vital factor. Far too many of the proposed facilities are situated in the south of the county at the expense of the north, no doubt to appease and serve the larger conurbations. I know that Dorset is a rural county, but there is a need for more equality. For far too long we have been the losers in favour of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. It is a well known fact that the powers that be quickly sort Shaftesbury out when they want pretty pictures of Gold Hill to advertise the county, but people do actually live here, not just visit. (At the risk of being a bit cheeky, I suggest that a ‘whip round’ in Sandbanks might aid one or two of our problems). It does highlight the inequalities, especially as we are, along with Gillingham, expanding towns with little thought if any thought being given to the infrastructure. I wholly support Simon Hoare’s letter in this week’s edition of the Blackmore Vale Magazine, and I hope very much that it will cause a major re-think of the part of those trying to instigate changes. I know that money is tight, but being fair, sensible and open with us all costs nothing.

  14. Many people will remember Maddy, the late landlady of the Benett Arms in Semley. Following a massive operation for pancreatic cancer and time in intensive care she was eventually transferred to the Westminster Memorial hospital.
    While in Shaftesbury a friend took one of her beloved old cats in to visit her. Another resident in the ward complained that she couldn’t be in the same room as “dirty cats”. The staff removed the other resident.

    On her 50th birthday Maddy was “smuggled” out of the hospital and wheeled through the back doors into her pub where dozens of friends and locals were able to greet her and sing Happy Birthday. Still in her hospital gowns I remember her being deathly pale and hardly 6 stone. She was barely recognisable apart from her huge grin and the sparkle in her eyes. Within a short time she was back at home and getting stronger every day. She would walk further every day but often found an excuse to stop at my cottage to rest.
    As she recovered we became a couple and had 3 happy years together before the cancer returned and she died peacefully in her own bed.
    Had she remained in Southampton or Salisbury away from her home, friends and pets I am convinced her flame would have flickered and gone out.

    Shaftesbury is not just for end-of-life. It extends life.

    As a post-script, I should mention that, against the odds and with Maddy’s determination, her pub survived too. Against the national trend it has since thrived. There are knock-on effects we cannot yet imagine.

  15. When our dear friend was transferred from Salisbury to Westminster for her final weeks it made all the difference to us.

    It meant we could see her a million times more easily. She could have loved ones visit her more often.

    It was homely visiting her at Westminster…completely different to the large ward at Salisbury.

  16. When our dear friend was transferred from Salisbury to Westminster for her final week it made all the difference to us.

    It meant we could see her a million times more easily. She could have loved ones visit her more often.

    It was homely visiting her at Westminster…completely different to the large ward at Salisbury.

  17. after a stroke,had 3 weeks in yeovil hospital, which was a horror story, 4 weeks in salisbury hospital, which was even worse with overworked staff not caring and being told several times they had “better things to do then get me to the toilet, so wet your bed”, i was transferred to what was a heaven of peace and CARE
    at shaftesbury westminster hospital, where i spend 2 weeks before being able to go home.
    this hospital specialises in NOT making one feel “you are old, so don’t matter” and as it covers an area so very important to so many of us being LOCAL here in gillingham, dorset, it must be allowed to continue with having beds available.
    the staff there are wonderfull in giving a patient their time and care, which is sadly lacking elsewhere.
    i am 87 years old, and was “listened” to!!!

  18. I have been treated, as have my family before me, and my children, by visiting specalists at the hospital. This saved us expences on transport, time and emotions. I have recently said a sad farewell to one of the most beautiful ladies I have known in this hospital. The staff, even the receptionist!! Have always treated us with politeness, friendliness and respect.The different departments are always booked to capacity, so please continue with this wonderful place.

  19. I hear that consultations are in progress to determine the future role of the above cottage hospital, with particular reference to whether there remains real need for local patients from north Dorset, and south-west Wiltshire (the county border only about one kilometre away) to continue with provision of a bedded service.

    As a local resident since 1991 February, I must emphasise my biased view that this existing service must remain, and that logistically risky and medically dangerous cuts to services here on the ground in north Dorset must be reversed, and ultimately a new fully functioning, but possibly annexed (to Salisbury, or Dorchester; possibly Bournemouth) teaching hospital must be built and provided here with real vision to provide a comprehensive and professional service to meet the needs of an exponentially increasing population here in the north of the county of Dorset.

    Should some dull-grey-suited and otherwise monochrome and miserable uncreative accountant elsewhere think that we are so dumb and stupid hereabouts as to stand by like sheep to support and permit such viciously dangerous cuts to occur under our noses, then indeed such a view would be very seriously resisted.

    The NHS belongs as much to us as it does in any other location, and we hereabouts deserve more respect, and seek an end to cuts because of such devious and completely unprofessional short-term objectives.

    I, myself will be having major surgery elsewhere sometime this year, but in the early part of convalescence, I would seriously expect that should I need remain for a while in bedded care, that such service would be provided here locally in Shaftesbury, and not many miles away from my home.

    I have also heard talk of some kind of flying squad turning up here, but such a concept truly belongs in Cuckooland, because service providers located in those cosy locations in the south of the county would simply not bother with us, and the cost of that neglect would be in terms of precious human lives forfeit.

    It is high time that those who consider the NHS to be some kind of disposable commodity, possibly to be sold off should quit now and go to find something else to destroy, for our precious NHS since its foundation has existed for the people and by the people, and should never ever be subject to market forces, or corporate shareholder capricious whim and spite. The NHS, and Westminster Memorial Hospital are ours; thus, those gem treasures are the property of the people!

    Hands off!

    Yours faithfully

  20. When I was a fit and happy 50 year old in 2010 I had an undiagnosed ruptured abscess on my appendix which nearly killed me. I had major surgery and after a few days in intensive care and in the high dependancy unit when I needed specialist services but after that I was stuck in Salisbury recuperating miles from my family and friends. I asked to be transferred to Shaftesbury and once Salisbury had established that it was NOT a just a geriatric hospital I went there. The staff were lovely and caring and the food was great! People came to visit even the doctor who’d mis-diagnosed the problem. I felt so much happier there. I became more ill again and had to go back to Salisbury but I believe we get better faster when we are in the right environment. Keep Salisbury for specialist operations and medical proceedures but then let us recuperate Ina professional caring environment near home. One final word, I would have been devastated to find nyself in Castle Hill House as lovely as it is But my life was not ending. I don’t want to be sent to a geriatric care home no matter how lovely.

  21. “No longer fit for purpose”

    To the accusation by the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group that the hospital is “no longer fit for purpose” former matron Jane Silvester (2010-2015) was emphatic in an interview she gave to Dorset Life. What she said then bears repeating in 2017:

    “Yes, it’s an old building but inside it we have up-to-date, modern equipment and a team of dedicated staff. We’ve got all the facilities we need – a busy outpatients department, a minor injuries unit and 25 in-patient beds [now 15].

    “What makes the hospital special is the people in it: the nursing staff, the occupational therapists, the physiotherapists, the administrative staff, the facilities staff and volunteers – it’s a whole community.

    “It’s not a large community – about a hundred people in all – but every one of them goes over and above their remit, from helping to plant flowers in the hospital garden to coming in for the Christingle service on Christmas Eve.

    “I think the way forward is to build on our existing excellent relationship with the local community and to develop further our facilities through more partnership working – and thus ensure that our community hospital continues to care for future generations of Shastonians.”

    In the background, if you listen carefully, you will hear a rising groundswell chorus of the voices of people from Shaftesbury and Gillingham and Tisbury and Hindon and Mere and all the villages around.

    “And so say all of us!” they shout in unison. And may it be so. As it should.

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