The island’s ‘forgotten charity’

Presentation in 2013 of a Lego table and toys with Chris Blatcher of Toymaster along with midwives Kirsty Steventon, Jayne Field and Sarah Kelly along with Toby the Toymaster puppy

Presentation in 2013 of a Lego table and toys with Chris Blatcher of Toymaster along with midwives Kirsty Steventon, Jayne Field and Sarah Kelly along with Toby the Toymaster puppy

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What members describe as the island’s ‘forgotten charity’ has spent more than £1 million in the past 10 years making life more bearable for hospital patients.

But despite notching up over 65 years of support the League of Friends of Noble’s Hospital is not one of the island’s best known organisations.

Presentation in 2011 of an OCT machine, costing �75,000, to Nobles Opthalmic Department. Pictured is nurse Pin Doherty demonstrating the machine to League of Friends secretary Sue Grace, watched by members of the department and League of Friends

Presentation in 2011 of an OCT machine, costing �75,000, to Nobles Opthalmic Department. Pictured is nurse Pin Doherty demonstrating the machine to League of Friends secretary Sue Grace, watched by members of the department and League of Friends

The charity was founded in the early 1950s and has done sterling work supporting hospital patients ever since.

Treasurer Kevin Kneen said the charity started off providing small items like toiletries – low in value but which make such a huge difference to people’s sense of well being when at a low ebb.

But the modest aims of 65 years ago have evolved in the 21st century and in the past two years alone the League has provided televisions for every hospital bed. The League shared the overall cost of this with the Hospital Trust, of £180,000. ‘The idea is to make the hospital experience more comfortable,’ said League chairman, Chris Kelly.

‘The problem is, we are subterranean in terms of our profile. We are not an organisation with a large publicity machine nor do we go out shaking collecting boxes.’

Presentation in 2014 of new equipment to the Speech and Language Therapy Unit at Nobles Hospital by the League of Friends of Nobles Hospital

Presentation in 2014 of new equipment to the Speech and Language Therapy Unit at Nobles Hospital by the League of Friends of Nobles Hospital

Another initiative has been to provide soft toys for children attending the hospital’s blood clinic. The move has been popular with some young patients actually wanting repeat visits so they can collect the whole set. Other items supplied for patients’ use include personal stereos, computer games and toys and exercise equipment.

In addition, the remit of the charity seems to be growing. In recent years it has gone far beyond simply providing items – often small – to make a hospital stay more bearable.

With an aging population and advances in medical science placing an ever increasing burden on the publicly funded health service, the charity finds itself helping out more and more with buying practical health care equipment.

Recently, for instance, it has paid towards kitting out a room to support dementia patients. The rooms are furnished to look like a 1950s dance hall and a living room of the same period. This helps to stimulate memories for patients.

The charity has also funded alarms or tags for old people who have dementia and are prone to wandering off. The tags make them easier to trace and therefore easier to keep safe.

‘In these times of tight budgets the hospital does ask for us to fund actual medical equipment,’ Mr Kelly said.

Recent equipment purchases, courtesy of the League, have included a portable x-ray machine, the automatic chest compressor and a tournique machine.

Every year, for patients unlucky enough to have to spend Christmas in hospital, the League also funds Christmas presents. Money towards cheering the place up and providing festive decorations is also provided. Seasonal Easter eggs also come courtesy of the League, as do flowers in the hospital’s chapel.

The team keeps in touch by making monthly visits to the hospital to speak to people and find out what is needed.

‘The big items generate most publicity, of course, but sometimes it’s the little things that get noticed most by the patients – like the flowers,’ Mr Kelly said.

The earliest surviving official minutes relating to the League document an initial meeting held in 1949 at the Palais de Dance in Strand Street, Douglas, courtesy of Palace and Derby Castle Co Ltd. The then Lord Bishop attended along with members of the Hospital Management Committee. Speeches were made detailing the intended aims of the League by the bishop and by JD Qualtrough, JP. A committee was formed consisting of people described as ‘the leading lights of the town’ and the Rev Fred Cubbon was elected chairman, an office he held from 1949 to 1980.

Traditionally, the charity has relied on donations and legacies, and has not resorted to high profile campaigning and collecting.

Sometimes bereaved relatives may request donations for the charity in lieu of flowers. Any member of the public can also become a member of the League in exchange for a minimum annual donation of £1. But donations in the past year or so have been falling noticeably, though on average the charity spends £90,000 to £100,000 annually.

Anyone wishing to support the charity is not restricted to leaving a legacy. Any donations are gratefully received by the treasurer at 21 Ballanard Road, Douglas, IM2 5HA.

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