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About Axminster Hospital League of Friends

Formally known as The Axminster Comforts Fund and registering with the Charities Commission as The League of Friends of Axminster Hospital in 1988, the charity has been supporting the health needs of the town and its environs for over 50 years.

Set up to support the in-patients at Axminster Hospital, the charity was named The Comforts Fund as it felt that each patient should be given the “comfort” of a newspaper to ensure that they could keep up to date with the news and events going on whilst they were recuperating in their hospital bed. It progressed to support not only the needs of the in-patients but the extended needs of the patients and staff of Axminster Hospital. The community hospital not only housed in-patient beds but it also offered minor surgery, often carried out by the local GPs, held a plethora of medical and other support clinics with community staff working from the building.

With the move away from the primary care trust model to the establishment of Clinical Commissioning Groups and Foundation Trusts, centralisation was a key driver within the NHS for efficiency improvement. The utilisation of the hospital was revisited and in the early 2000’s The League supported the NHS with approximately £4 million of funding to modernise and redevelop the hospital providing smaller wards with significantly improved bathroom facilities.

Whilst The League’s name is linked to Axminster Hospital, its constitution allows it to support all and any health and well-being related activity within the town and local areas. To this end it has funded other local charities offering befriending support, food banks, services and mental health to name but a few. Funding for all of these activities was achieved through donations and legacies received from grateful patients and members of the League.

Community hospitals in East Devon were under the auspices of North Devon Healthcare Trust based in Barnstaple. In the mid 2000’s a review by the Trust led to the proposal to remove the in-patient beds and by 2017 all of the beds in both Axminster and Seaton Hospitals volunteer had been removed. Understandably, people link hospitals with beds and many thought that the closure of the beds meant the imminent closure of the hospital. In conjunction with the new controlling entity of the Royal Devon University NHS Foundation Trust (Formally the RD&E and now incorporating NDHT), The League has been working tirelessly to reassure the people of Axminster that whilst the hospital is thriving the model of care is different. The hospital offers 5 full days of Ophthalmology, has one of the most up to date X-ray facilities in the South West and increasing its out-patient clinics daily.

The hospital with beds offered a local facility for end-of-life care. This is the one element of the hospital’s history that we are sadly missing. To that end, Axminster Hospital League of Friends would like to be able to reinstate ‘place-based’ end-of-life care, allowing people to pass away peacefully in their own home. In order to achieve this we need community support, donations and significant fund raising.