Forth Valley Royal Hospital - caring, healing and helping throughout a decade of change
The recent brutal battle against the coronavirus pandemic placed Forth Valley Royal Hospital (FVRH) in the spotlight and showed just how vital this massive health facility has been to the lives of so many people over the last ten years.
Since the hospital officially opened on July 6, 2011, it has provided the highest standards of care and treatment to thousands of local patients from across Forth Valley, contributed to world-class research on new treatments and helped train a new generation of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
Nearly 100,000 operations have been carried out, 1.1 million patients have attended outpatient appointments and around 30,000 babies have been welcomed into the
world over the last decade it has existed.
Located in Larbert, just off Stirling Road, on the site of the former Royal Scottish National Hospital, FVRH was Scotland’s largest ever NHS construction project at the time it was built, costing over £300 million.
The figures are still impressive today – over 860 inpatient beds, 25 wards and 16 operating theatres and 70 acres of attractive grounds surrounding the massive structure.
FVRH provides services for the 300,000 residents of the Forth Valley area – stretching from Killin in the north to Bo'ness in the south.
The hospital actually became partially operational in August 2010 when the first patients were admitted.
The sheer scale of the construction project meant that services transferred across on a phased basis.
First to move into the new building were inpatient services from the former Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary, followed by inpatient mental health services from Stirling and Falkirk and, finally, inpatient, emergency and maternity services from the former Stirling Royal Infirmary.
It was going to be called Forth Valley Hospital, but was granted royal status by Queen Elizabeth II who subsequently officially opened the facility.
Since then Forth Valley Royal Hospital has continued to drive forward a wide range of healthcare innovations. These include major advances in the diagnosis of skin cancers to the development of new virtual technology to help examine and treat eye injuries.
Forth Valley Royal Hospital has also developed close links with many partners including Forestry and Land Scotland, who created a network of woodland walks and installed a viewing platform over the loch, and Maggie’s Caring Cancer Centres, who opened a new Forth Valley centre on the hospital site.
Throughout the last ten years the hospital has been supported by a wide network of local volunteers and fundraisers who support local staff, patients and families –many who saw their children born in FVRH.
Karen McFarlane, NHS Forth Valley’s interim department manager for paediatrics, said it was amazing to think the tiny babies born in 2011 were now almost ready to move on to secondary schools.
She added: “It’s lovely to see some of our very first arrivals and hear about how they have grown and developed over the last ten years. It’s also great to hear that one of them still treasures the toy bunny and Forth Valley First vest which they received when they were born.”
From the very start, FVRH embraced the use of new technology and was Scotland's first fully robotic pharmacy.
It also employed a fleet of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to deliver a wide range of supplies to hospital wards.
These robotic vehicles, which resemble mini fork lift trucks, travel in their own separate workspace and are rarely seen by visitors.
However, the late Duke of Edinburgh was able to catch a glimpse of these mechanical marvels in action when he was allowed to visit the lower levels of the hospital at the official opening ceremony ten years ago.
He witnessed a fleet of robotic vehicles, supplied and maintained by Serco, finding their way using guidance lasers, sliding silently along their very own corridor system and entering lifts underneath the hospital, removing waste, delivering food to wards, and cleaning operating theatres among other duties.
Innovation is one thing, but the hospital and its staff are what really make the difference in the lives of patients and families.
Few could have predicted the impact COVID-19 would have on the world – let alone the Forth Valley area – but FVRH was as ready as it could have been.
Cathie Cowan, NHS Forth Valley’s chief executive, said: “Despite the many challenges of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 18 months, staff have gone above and beyond to maintain vital services, support each other and care for local patients and their families.
“Although large scale celebrations weren’t possible due to the pandemic, many of the staff who have worked at the hospital since it opened have been sharing their memories to mark this special anniversary.”
Those celebrations were crowned by a message from HM Queen Elizabeth herself, who took the time to sent her best wishes to staff and patients.
An NHS Forth Valley spokesperson said: “FVRH celebrated 10 years since the official opening of the hospital. To help mark this important milestone, staff and patients enjoyed specially decorated birthday cupcakes and, in the 10 days leading up to the anniversary, a number of staff who have worked at the hospital since it opened shared their first impressions, memories and hopes for the future in a series of videos.
“Forth Valley Nurses Choir recorded a special rendition of Happy Birthday to mark the day, while the families of some of the first babies born in Forth Valley Royal Hospital shared updates on their children as they approach their 10th birthdays.”
And in 10 year’s time when they are about to turn 20 and are thinking about university, getting a job or even starting a family of their own, FVRH will still be there to help and care for them if required.