There may not be a Radio Dorset – yet – but Pat Scott rates Hospital Radio Bedside as the next best thing
Published in July ’10
There is little compensation for spending time in hospital except returning home with a beautiful baby, a new hip or replacement knee. Apart from such life-enhancing additions it is usually visiting times and meals to which one looks forward; it is possible, however, to enrich quiet moments or sooth anxiety. For in-patients attending the Royal Bournemouth, Poole General and Maternity, Christchurch and Wimborne hospitals, a well-kept secret waits beside each bed. Every adult is able, with headphones, to access Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4 plus several local stations. As a bonus, there are also programmes tailored to the needs of patients, on-air throughout the day and night, 365 days a year. They are broadcast by Hospital Radio Bedside and the station provides all radio services completely free of charge.
A dedicated team of volunteers produces Hospital Radio Bedside from a complex at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, with a wide variety of programmes to suit all tastes and ages. Music of all genres plays a big part in the schedules, as does the spoken word – short stories, poetry and quizzes. The service also provides local news and sport, with a live link from Dean Court, home of AFC Bournemouth, supplying news during this promotion season. There is community information and national news coverage to keep patients in touch with the outside world, including the General Election last May – although it is not recorded whether that provided elation or exasperation. The evening Request Show runs daily through the week and requests are also played during weekend programmes.
All members of the extensive team which keeps HRB running, from hospital visitors to administrative assistants to presenters, are expected to visit the wards, so that patients can see the face of hospital radio. Request collectors do the rounds regularly, sharing a chat with patients, who choose a favourite piece of music and then hear it played especially for them. This has worked successfully over the years but now, thanks to the Internet, family and friends can also submit a request by e-mail, listening to it at the same time as their loved ones are tuning in. Recently a link was forged with a request from America, which delighted the patient. By visiting the website and following the instructions, it is possible not only to request a track but also to send a message and even create a get-well card.
Much amusement is caused on the ward rounds by the choice of music and many a patient in the orthopaedic wards after major surgery will suggest ‘Let’s Twist Again’ or ‘Rock Around the Clock’. For the third consecutive year the most requested song was ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra, hardly surprising given the relaxing voice of Old Blue Eyes. What is interesting is that the first lines are ‘And now the end is near and so I face the final curtain’ – never let it be said that hospital patients lack a sense of humour!
The Royal Victoria Hospital, Boscombe saw the birth of hospital radio in the area during 1971, with a short request programme weekly. Soon broadcasts began live from Poole Hospital and 1972 is considered the official beginning of the Hospital Radio Bedside story. Not that the ‘studio’ at Poole was very official, as presenters worked in an engineer’s basement storeroom, surrounded by old fridges and other junk. In 1976 the scene changed to an attic in the Westbourne Eye Hospital, with broadcasts going out to several local hospitals. The 1980s saw huge expansion and growth with much fund-raising needed for new studios to be built at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital in Castle Lane. In September 1990 the complex was opened and HRB had a purpose-built base from which to operate. The new millennium brought an increasing use of technology to keep the service up to date and, in 2009, both on-air studios were completely refurbished, the project made possible by a generous donation from the Talbot Village Trust. The new equipment enabled, for the first time, programmes to be streamed online to be enjoyed in the wider community.
Last year, HRB received the outstanding accolade of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. As the Queen’s representative, the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Mrs Anthony Pitt-Rivers, made the presentation to Chairman Juli Brown and founder member Jimmy Ross (known as Mr Radio Bedside) with team members, friends, associates and benefactors of HRB proudly looking on. Describing the award as ‘prestigious and only given to a small number of elite groups,’ Mrs Pitt-Rivers spoke warmly of Hospital Radio Bedside being a well-run organisation, having an enviable record of fund-raising and providing the personal contact so valued by patients.
There is no State or National Health Service funding for HRB so help from the League of Friends organisations which support all five hospitals is a lifeline. Many local businesses and organisations also contribute generously and the Lottery Fund has dug into its coffers, but mostly money is raised at local events: HRB attends carnivals, fairs, fetes and fiestas. There is an annual quiz, customarily hosted by HRB President Alan Dedicoat, and the outside broadcast van can often be spotted providing the public address system at events. At 735 Christchurch Road, Boscombe the HRB charity shop always appreciates customers and contributions. Another way to support the radio station is by sponsoring a show, which means that a local business or organisation, for a modest amount, has a higher profile in the community. Hospital Radio Bedside is a self-funding charity which never asks for donations from patients, relying instead on the goodwill and generosity of the public. It costs £15,000 a year to keep the station on air for 24 hours a day.
Hospital Radio Bedside is looking to raise its profile and parties of all ages, from scouts to seniors, are welcome – by arrangement – to visit the radio station and find out the work which goes on. There are tours of the studios, which boast state-of-the-art equipment, and visitors can see the extensive music library. Talks are arranged for organisations and groups, while for anyone who would like to be involved in the association, personnel members run informal ‘find out more about us’ sessions; they can be contacted by letter, phone or e-mail. The website gives full details of programmes, presenters and people; to hear HRB in action go to On Air where a click on Listen Live connects the listener with the current broadcast.
A glass cabinet in the studio area proudly displays the crystal dome which is the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2009. The citation which accompanies it, signed by HM The Queen, states that the award is to Hospital Radio Bedside for ‘Regularly visiting patients in hospital, collecting their requests and providing a wide range of programmes to aid their well-being and recovery.’ That says it all.
Hospital Radio Bedside
Post Point FO8
Royal Bournemouth Hospital