I am able to bring Bath Newseum followers a first glimpse of the proposed new building which will replace the city’s much-loved Mineral Water Hospital and be constructed as part of the main Royal United Hospital complex at Weston.
How the new Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases may look when it is built and joined to one side of the entrance to the RUH. The new Dyson Cancer Centre makes up the extending wing on the other side – out of frame on the right of this illustration.
The image comes courtesy of Professor George Odam – who was Patient Governor of the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases for nine years.
Professor George Odam
He is also someone who has relentlessly campaigned to ensure that the move to the main hospital – from the Grade 2 listed and town-centered building – will not reduce the status of the research work done there over the years AND the future quality of service to patients.
The old hospital – known affectionately as The Min – was founded for the nation’s ‘deserving poor’ and the foundation stone laid in 1738.
John Wood’s plan for the hospital.
Designed by John Wood the Elder, the Bath stone was given by John Allen from his local quarries and the money to build the first half of the current building ( a Victorian wing was added later) – raised by Beau Nash from amongst Bath’s wealthy visitors.
Since then it has specialised in the treatment of rheumatological conditions with the aim of rehabilitating patients as soon as possible, and the historic casebook, in the hospital’s museum, gives precise detail of cases from the very beginning.
Professor Odam says:
‘In the 1940s, following severe bombing, The Min was rebuilt with energy and vision, spurred on by the determination of Bath’s own Dr George Kersley, who founded the first Department of Rheumatology and gave the name to this new discipline.
The Min survived and has remained in the historic buildings that patients have grown to love so much for their friendliness, charm and lack of normal health institutional atmosphere.
Research has been a king pin of this hospital’s work over the centuries and The Min has more recently become a national centre for award-winning research into and treatment of a rare rheumatic condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).
Clinicians have worked creatively with physiotherapists and hydrotherapists to evolve a residential course for AS patients. This course has no equivalent anywhere else and thousands of patients from all over the UK and also from other parts of the globe have benefitted from it, often describing it as life-changing.’
Now it has been decided the original building is no longer ‘fit-for-purpose’ and The Min will close in two years as its work transfers to the newly-built centre at the RUH.
Of the new building illustration – Professor Odam tells followers of a Facebook Closed group – for supporters and patients of the RNHRD :
“You can see, it has developed hugely over the past year and far beyond the first sketches which were worrying.
The plan puts it opposite the new Dyson Cancer Centre, at the front of the RUH and it will finally match it in overall presentation.
How the new Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases may look when it is built and joined to one side of the entrance to the RUH. The new Dyson Cancer Centre makes up the extending wing on the other side and out of sight on the right of the picture.
The plan for the new hydro pool is exciting and definitely outshines our beloved pool at The Min. The Centre will have its own X Ray and consulting rooms, gym and therapy centre but no bed wards. I understand that there is also a proposal for an adjacent patients accommodation block for those on courses, but this has yet to be divulged.
Although research will not take place in the new centre it is good to know that future research proposals from RNHRD will have that as a title – building on the worldwide research reputation of The Min.’
I understand there is going to be a ‘Patient Consultation’ meeting on Thursday of this week when floor plans will also be produced for comment. Both the look of the new building, what it is actually called AND what is eventually offered inside could change.
The meeting is also to reassure patients that, in the future, they can expect the same clinicians providing the same level of service but in a purpose-built new location.
In the meantime, Professor Odam turns his comments towards the fate of the old building.
‘Although I am still greatly worried about the fate of our historic lovely hospital, many agencies are now sensitised and interested in its future. I sincerely hope that the link with medicine and the waters will not be lost.
I’m aware that B&NES and Ben Howlett MP are keeping a watchful eye – which is heartening. The proposed Bath Medical Museum, housing the history of The Min in tangible form, will be an important part of future decisions.’
There are lots of possible outcomes in the air regarding the future of this prime piece of Bath’s historic and medically relevant architecture.
First of all the newly-energised Bath Medical Museum – with its amazing collection of art and patient records – will want to be part of whatever scheme is adopted. There are two other possible occupants elsewhere in the city.
Bath Fashion Museum is not that far from the end of its lease at the Assembly Rooms and the city’s Record Office – in the Guildhall – is fast running out of space.
Bath Record Office at the Guildhall.
If that is not enough to fill the old building there is the question of the original hydrotherapy bath and the amazing conduit originally used to pump thermal water up to the hospital from the spring in Stall Street.
While the city’s Thermae Spa offers visitors a chance to soak in these amazing hot springs – maybe – its being suggested -the Min could switch the pumps back on and bring the water up through the conduit to supply an up market ‘medical spa centre’ – designed for international clients prepared to pay for that level of service.
For Your Information:
Professor George Odam was the first Professor of Music to be appointed at Bath Spa University and subsequently was Head of Research at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London – retiring in 2007. He has lived in and around Bath for 45 years and has a keen interest in its history and art.