KEEPING the community at its heart is the central ethos of Airedale Hospital – and will continue to shape its vision for the next half century.

That’s the message from Brendan Brown, chief executive of Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, as the hospital celebrates its 50th anniversary.

He says there have been many changes over the years and unprecedented challenges in recent months, but the public has always remained at the core.

“We are often referred to as a small district general hospital and community trust – but we have always punched above our weight,” said Mr Brown.

“We are agile, able to change swiftly and adjust to new demands on our services. This has never more shown itself to be true than in recent months.

“Everything we do is about serving our population – keeping our community at our heart – and this will be our ambition for the next 50 years.

“Our estate has changed substantially since 1970; in recent years we’ve completely upgraded our emergency department, built a new acute assessment unit and redeveloped our laboratories. We have work under way to create additional theatres and exciting future plans for an entire new ward block, all so Airedale can continue to lead the way for innovation and care.

“We are hugely appreciative of the support and trust we receive from local people and I hope that we honour that trust in the compassionate care we provide.

“I am enormously proud of our colleagues and volunteers who continue to go above and beyond, as we face these unprecedented challenges together.”

Andrew Gold, the trust chairman, said he was “inordinately proud” of the services provided at the hospital and its position in the community.

He added: “As a local resident and user of healthcare services, I remain totally committed to leading the board of Airedale which wants the trust to be the best it can be, now and so that it continues to thrive in the future.”

The hospital’s evolution over the past five decades has been marked, with a number of notable developments.

Just two years after it opened, it became one of the first hospitals in the country to have its own occupational health department for staff.

In 1973, a £100,000 postgraduate centre was built and work started on constructing a staff recreation centre – 200 doctors, nurses and other staff lived at the hospital at that time.

Diana, the Princess of Wales, visited in 1989 to officially open a £74,000 extension to the child development centre.

In 1993, a new cardiac catheter lab opened – with £500,000 worth of state-of-the art equipment. And it was followed three years later by a £4.5m expansion of theatre capacity.

A milestone in the hospital’s history arrived in 2004, when Airedale became a foundation trust, meaning people in the community could become members and a board of governors would have a say in the development of services. That year also saw the opening of a new children’s outpatient unit.

The emergency department reopened in 2014 following an extension and refurbishment, and a new acute assessment unit opened its doors in 2018.