Friends’ 50 years of support for Fife hospitals

Ronnie Corbett at the summer fete organised by  the Friends of Victoria & Whyteman's Brae Hospitals.
Ronnie Corbett at the summer fete organised by the Friends of Victoria & Whyteman's Brae Hospitals.

A Kirkcaldy charity that supports the town’s hospitals is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The Friends of the Victoria and Whyteman’s Brae Hospitals was founded in 1969 and is a committee comprising of equal numbers of hospital staff and volunteers.

Charlie Chung

Charlie Chung

It aims to provide funds for comforts, amenities and other requests for the benefit of patients and staff of both hospitals – and to receive donations, legacies and endowments to advance its work.

Over the past five decades, the group has raised over £600,000 and, in the 1970s it drew celebrities such as Ronnie Corbett, Sir Jimmy Shand, Molly Weir, Rikki Fulton and Johnny Beattie to its famous garden fetes.

The charity has raised funds and helped to buy equipment for the diabetes centre and helped to furnish Victoria Hospital’s chapel to benefit people from all denominations.

It has also donated funds to the dedicated stroke unit, medical photography, pharmacy, radiology, music therapy, ophthalmology, Victoria Radio Network and the children’s ward,

Rikki Fulton signs autographs after opening the garden fete

Rikki Fulton signs autographs after opening the garden fete

The ‘Friends’ also financed furniture for the Seaview Ward at Whyteman’s Brae, and previously backed the Adam Smith College art students’ project.

Recently the group has funded projects, which include the ‘cosy nook’ in the medicine of the elderly ward.

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It was furnished and decorated to look like a sitting room from the 1950s, and was designed to be therapeutic for people living with Alzheimers. It also installed a sensory shed and relaxation room at Whyteman’s Brae.

Recently, the group bought several essential pieces of medical equipment.

The list included a frailty suit – a wearable training suit that enables the wearer to experience what it is like to suffer from conditions like Parkinson’s disease –and an E-Link system that helps to rehabilitate stroke patients.

Eleanor Young chairs the ‘Friends.’

She is a former superintendent radiographer at the Vic, and has been on the committee for 25 years

She said: “We are here to raise money and to provide the little extras for patients and staff.

“The ‘Friends’ were first founded when there was a nurse the hospital wanted to send to a specialised conference that it thought would benefit the Vic.

“It cost £200, but the health board at the time did not have the funds – in 1969 that would have been quite a lot of money – so people who worked in the hospital formed a committee and raised the money.

“They raised more than they needed and just kept going.

“Since we were founded, we have handed over more than £600,000 of specialised medical equipment, furnishings, projects and a whole host of other things.”

Charlie Chung, rehabilitation manager runs a stroke clinic at Victoria Hospital. He is also a staff member who sits on committee.

Charlie volunteered after his department received donations of medical equipment.

He said: “I jumped at the chance – it was an opportunity to give back.

“There are a lot of things that are hard to fund out of budget because they are not core business, the ‘Friends’ are able to do this with all the fundraising done.

“We are here to support patients and staff, but we rarely get requests from staff unless it is for training equipment that will ultimately benefit patients. They are very selfless and are always thinking about the patients.”

Karen Cafferkey, senior charge nurse in the medicine of the elderly ward said: “The ‘Friends’ do a lot of really good work for the benefit of the patients.

“It is excellent what they do for everyone here – thanks to them there are so many extra things that has been made available to us.”

Aidan McGlashan, a speech and language therapist who works in the stroke unit, is another supporter.

He said: “The ‘Friends’ support the funding for special pieces of equipment in the hospitals, they are a very positive presence in the hospital.

“I think it is a good link between the public and the hospital.

“The group encourages general awareness for the hospital in the community as well. It definitely does a lot of good work here.”