'Happy birthday, Ninewells': Pioneering hospital celebrates 50 years

The £25m Tayside facility has advanced medical care and research across the country.

Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital is celebrating its 50th birthday, having welcomed its first patient on January 31, 1974.

Initially designed to accommodate 800 beds, construction of the hospital began in 1964.

Its opening had a major impact upon the city’s existing hospitals, with many functions and responsibilities transferring to the new site.

Fiona Jackson was 17 when she was transferred to Ninewells from Maryfield Hospital, which subsequently closed.

She told STV News: “It was quite remarkable really; I’d been in a traditional ward for nearly a month and just to come into a new hospital was amazing.

“It was a landmark then and it’s still a landmark to me because I received the greatest of care in these walls.”

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, officially opened Ninewells Hospital on October 23, 1974.

The £25m facility would go on to advance medical care and research across the country.

Ninewells was at the pioneering edge of medical capabilities in the 70s with new labs and equipment.

It was the first new teaching hospital to be built in the UK since the 19th century. By 1986, the hospital employed more than 5,000 people and had 830 beds over 39 wards.

Lynne Taylor, study coordinator for blood sciences came to Ninewells from Dundee Royal Infirmary in 1973 to help set up equipment in the laboratories.

Five decades on and she still works at the hospital.

Lynne said: “The difference between the laboratory at Dundee Royal Infirmary and here (Ninewells) was unbelievable.

“It was very state-of-the-art and it all looked extremely new. There’s an awful lot of firsts here at Ninewells, especially in the laboratories as well.

“We sort of spearheaded the bowel screening in Scotland and things like that.”

In recent times, the paediatric department was redeveloped and officially re-opened as the Tayside Children’s Hospital in June 2006.

A decade later, Ninewells became one of the four major trauma centres in Scotland, with the A&E department one of the best performing in the country.

Today, it’s home to one of the country’s top medical schools and is known as a leading centre for cancer management and robotic surgery, having introduced keyhole procedures to the UK.

To celebrate the milestone, Lorna Birse-Stewart, chair of the board at NHS Tayside, hosted an event on the concourse that included a photo exhibition of Ninewells through the decades, a performance of happy birthday and a medley of 1970s hits by the Just Sing! choir from Maggie’s Dundee.

Mrs Birse-Stewart said: “Since its opening, Ninewells Hospital has touched many thousands of lives in Tayside in different ways.

“For half a century we have provided care to our local population, from birth through to last moments, and today is a chance for us to reflect on everything that has been achieved over the last 50 years.

“As each decade has come and gone, the one constant is our amazing staff. 

“In a hospital this size it takes thousands of staff from a whole range of departments to ensure that services run smoothly and each one makes a valuable contribution to our health and social care services.”

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