Epsom Medical Equipment Fund Celebrates 40 Years of Fundraising for Epsom General Hospital
12th July 2019
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In 1979 Bess Harding had a dream: to purchase a CT Scanner for Epsom General Hospital  .................. and it happened due to the support of the local community.

It was the decade in which  Epsom & Ewell Council had a local lottery and through the Herald Newspaper, asked the public how the £30,000 raised should be spent.  Bess suggested a CT Scanner for Epsom General Hospital, not realising that back then they cost £230,000.   Running costs at the time were £2,000 per week which the hospital could not afford. 

Dr. Kirsten Younger has been a Consultant Radiologist at Epsom Hospital for over 27 years and is now reaching retirement age. She reflects on how much Bess's Medical Equipment Fund has done over the years to support and enhance the service to the local community.


“When I arrived, Epsom had no CT Scanner. Bess defied all odds to fund raise that whopping £230,000 to purchase our first ever CT. This was a remarkable achievement and really put our hospital on the map. Actor Brian Blessed was our chosen celebrity to officially ‘open’ the scanner, a day to remember.”


Since then Bess has raised huge further sums of money to buy ultrasound machines and a whole new Xray room (£70,000). 


Dr Younger started a new infant hip screening service at the Trust many years ago but needed a special cradle for the babies to lie in & keep them still. “The Trust had no funds, but once again, Bess came to our aid and purchased this invaluable item for us, which has benefited many hundreds of babies over the years. It is still going strong!


“We are looking forward to an imminent installation of a special lit ceiling in our children's Xray room, which looks like looking up at the sky with colourful hot air balloons passing overhead, this will be a wonderful distraction for anxious or scared children.   Many thanks to Bess for these and other items too numerous to mention.”


Endoscopes had broken down with no money to repair or replace them and so the Epsom Endoscopy Trust Fund was born.   Over to Bess…..fund raising started in earnest for a gastroscope which was purchased in six months, followed by a bronchoscope and with the arrival of a new consultant, a colonoscope and sigmoidoscope which enabled day case surgery to begin at Epsom.  

Running in parallel the South Suburban Co-op offered their support to enable an ultrasound scanner to be purchased.   This involved customers donating their unwanted trading stamps which were delivered by the box load for Bess and two volunteers to stick into books for 50p per book.   With cash donations the £16,000 ultrasound scanner was purchased for antenatal scans.  

Next on the list was the IDAS  – an amazing British scanning machine to scan blood vessels. The demonstration chose a dolls house where a video showed a lady going through her routine of getting out of bed, exercising  on a rowing machine, showering, breakfasting  before leaving for work.   The machine was also able to change colours i.e. a blue dress became red.   It was an amazing machine.   In the case of the IDAS which scanned blood vessels, all surrounding  tissue, organs could be made to disappear on screen so that a proper examination of the blood vessels could be made – all by bouncing sound waves through the part being examined.  As equipment other than endoscopes were now being purchased, the name was amended to Epsom Medical Equipment Fund to encompass all equipment.  

After a few years the long awaited message came through from Dr. Tudor Thomas, Chief Executive of Epsom Healthcare Trust – you can raise money for the CT Scanner.   This was going to be quite a challenge and we were not sure how technology would move on and if it would still be called a CT Scanner, so we just called it a scanner and had two different designs of brooches made in the form of a cat which were soon being worn on proud people’s lapels.  Within two years - and with very grateful thanks to a benefactor who stood as guarantor and the local community who supported EMEF - the money was raised and the CT Scanner installed.

Since then most departments of Epsom Hospital have been the recipient of medical equipment purchased by EMEF,  from special pillows costing £17 each to various ultrasound scanners costing anything up to £70,000 each; then a mammography machine – this permitted a screening unit to visit the area inviting women to be checked for breast cancer;  stroke equipment giving Epsom a stroke unit now upgraded to a Hyper Acute Unit – a local unit can save lives as speed is of the essence;   operating theatres, Intensive Care Unit with special life saving equipment; High Dependency Unit, State of the Art equipment for pathology speeding up the diagnostic process, urology, Accident & Emergency, maternity, paediatrics, vascular scanner, day care unit, physiotherapy, all play an important role in looking after the health needs of the local community .  

Looking back over those 40 years the fund has been running an extraordinary £5 million pounds has been raised and spent on equipment. “The benefit to the local community, to whom we owe a huge thank you for their support over this period of time, has been enormous,” says Bess, who has a small band of volunteers. 

Equipment is always needed, of course. Donations are welcomed; cheques should be made out to Epsom Medical Equipment Fund and sent to 32 Tealing Drive, Ewell, Surrey, KT19 0JS. 

Sign up to our newsletter which can be accessed via www.emef.org.uk;  on the Contact page there is a form to complete which will ensure you receive a copy bringing you up to date on what the fund is doing, forthcoming events and important health notices.  EMEF do not pass on or sell any names and addresses and you can unsubscribe at any time.

“Do look out for us at local events and in the Ashley Shopping Centre as well as our Car Boot Sales (held in the staff car park at the front of the hospital on Sundays twice a month from March to October) when we will be selling goods to raise money for our local hospital, Epsom General Hospital,” Bess adds. “Your support is most welcome.”

 A note from ThebestofEpsomandEwell:

We know Bess personally and she is a charming and totally dedicated person. Her devotion to supporting Epsom Hospital - through its many trials and tribulations - has never wavered. 

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