10 years of the Brunel building: Stories from our patients, staff and communities

The Brunel building exterior on a sunny day.

To help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Brunel building on Tuesday 28 May 2024, we asked our patients, staff and local communities to share their memories and experiences.

Nick Sell  - Patient

"I was transferred to Southmead on the day it opened as I was having too many seizures, I went on to have epilepsy surgery and recently cancer surgery and aftercare. I cannot thank everyone enough for the fantastic care I have received and continue to receive, your staff are amazing and so compassionate.

"You have changed my life and also saved my life, I owe you everything."

Dilbagh Singh Sandhu - South Asian Older People Group 

"I have been a taxi driver over the past 30 years and have been dropping off patients at the Brunel for over the past 9 years. I have both a personal and professional connection to this building, having been inside and out, from the first year till now my experience of the Brunel and Southmead Hospital has been very positive.

"I have at least one to two taxi jobs a day, dropping off patients with a wheelchair, the security team is very supportive in situations. From a personal the hospital staff at Gate 12 are always friendly. I appreciate this so much, they truly have been so helpful, I would like to thank them so much."

Lizzy - Patient

"I love how the building brings the outside in, with windows and being surrounded by trees and nature, it definitely helps recovery! The teams and individuals are great too."

Suthan Singh - South Asian Older People Group 

"What can I say, I like that you are sharing stories of Southmead. Whenever I have visited one thing I have noticed is that staff are always happy to help me.

"My first language is not English but this has never been a hinderance for me. I am always supported, and I hope to share another memory with you for the 20th anniversary."

Sarah Cox – Patient Partner

"I’ve undergone 68 surgeries at NBT- most have been the amputation of my fingers (multiple times each). I attend between 80-100 outpatient appointments per year, and 4 years ago, I joined the patient partnership group (now known as Patient and Carer Experience (PACE) group). 

"I regularly contribute to away days, workshops and speak at conferences and seminars to share my experiences as a patient and advocate for people who can’t speak for themselves. I’ve sat on working groups and interview panels and challenged and changed policy and practices, all with the goal of improving patient care. 

"I’ve been a patient on most wards, made lifelong friendships in staff, other patients and managers. I cannot walk the main atrium without seeing someone I know and receiving a hug!

"This month marks 20 years since I was diagnosed with systemic sclerosis, a connective tissue disease. I’ve reflected on this over and over recently: my disease is life limiting, my body is expiring at an alarming rate, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to take some ownership of how my care is delivered. Partnership working keeps me feeling invested in my care and subsequently my health. My Southmead, my care."

Hannah Stevens – Patient

"I am a patient at Southmead Hospital, I ended up having two back operations there and time in intensive care. The staff and the building is just so fabulous, I received fantastic care there. Its not nice having a disability but I'm so glad of the care I have when I'm there."

Scott Howse – Patient and Senior Emergency Department Administrator

"I was one of the first patients here with an emergency admission requiring a 7 day stay back in 2014. Then followed two major operations in 2015 with a total of 4 weeks as an inpatient with a subsequent less major surgery (not minor by any means) in 2016. I joined the Trust a soon as I made a full recovery and I have now worked here for 7 years."

Shiv Sama – Avon Indian Community Association

"I was booked to have a surgery in the old building over 9 years ago, but this got moved into the new building – ‘the Brunel Building’. So this means I have visited the building within the first year of its opening! I have good memories of the times I have visited Southmead Hospital, I am often greeted with happy smiles from staff."

Gloria Thorn - Former NBT staff member

"Proud to have been one of the handful of nurses from the Learning and Research department who were asked to act as escorts for all the patients transferring between hospitals."

Nikita Evelyn - Patient

"I was one of the patients almost moved from Frenchay to Southmead on the 15th May that year. I was one of the last patients to have brain surgery at Frenchay! Brilliant hospital."

Mr Bassi - South Asian Older People Group 

"I have been impressed with the Building and have come in for some appointments, with some of these in 2015. My visit has always been very welcoming and I would like to thank the staff that have been involved with my treatment."

Karen Hawksworth – Former NBT staff member

"I was there for the final plan discussion between Skanska and Carillon on which building to finally go with, I was there for the first dig, I was at the topping out which was great (the view was amazing), I said goodbye to the big cranes which was a huge milestone and helped with all the plans to move the wards as part of building our futures and then missed the final move as my baby arrived! Poor timing Karen!"

Ellen Devine – Patient

"It's a brilliant building with very special teams working in it. As a patient, I love the access to nature - from windows, trees in the atrium, green spaces around the grounds...it makes such a difference when you're spending a lot of time there."

Henry Lumley – Former NBT staff member

"I was proud to work for NBT (well Southmead first) for 24 years. Brunel was the opportunity to create something special away from Southmead. Bristol Centre for Enablement was the result of the opportunity created by the new hospital building.

"Quickly recognising that our services didn't need to be located on such an acute site allowed us to create a beacon consolidation of regional disability services of which I remain hugely proud, even after 7 years of retirement. I miss the people I had the privilege to work with and I miss the buzz of being part of a great team. This was only facilitated by the need to rationalise space at Brunel but worked so well."

Jason Viner – Head of Physiology at NBT

"We have now been working in the Brunel building for 10 years. It is an amazing building to work in (compared to our old site at Southmead Hospital that was part of the old pharmacy buildings).

"It was brilliant to move into large well designed testing rooms that were safe and fit for purpose. We have the most modern equipment available that enables us to perform testing that other departments would struggle with.

"We form part of North Bristol Lung Centre and are a tertiary referral centre for Complex Airways Disease and for Interstitial Lung Disease, we review and care for patients throughout South West of England.

"Here’s to another 10 years!"

Tim Pearce  - Move Maker Volunteer

"One of the major (and important) milestones for me, and some colleagues, was the covid pandemic. 

"In late January 2020 the pandemic hit and, due to an increase in charitable donations, myself, Anita (my wife) and Peter Bateman were asked to come in for an extra day a week to help the Charity Team cope.  Wednesdays was our chosen day leaving us to continue Move Making on the Thursdays as the rota required.

"One of the unseen phenomena of the pandemic in general and the lockdown in particular was the sudden availability of perishable goods that companies had on their hands. A few examples will help illustrate the challenges faced by them and their generous solutions.

"By Easter 2020 the country was in lockdown and the John Lewis store at The Mall, Cribbs Causeway, sent all their Easter Eggs and Chocolate Perishables to the hospital for the staff to share. These arrived by the truck load and had been neatly packed in cages (on wheels) which were deposited on the loading bay off Beaufort Way. Our small team were tasked in splitting these fairly into separate batches and deliver them up to the main hospital to enable distribution to every member of staff (we do hope that everyone got one). We were seen, on one occasion, pushing these quite heavy cages up the hill past Elgar House      and were given a subsequent, but mild, “dressing down” by Health and Safety.

"Warburtons, the bakery based down near Severn Beach had been baking bread for the education authority and now had considerable over capacity issues; they diverted some of their spare production to the hospital. 800 Loaves of bread were delivered twice a week for a number of weeks which were distributed fairly to staff throughout the hospital.

"A little heard of company 'Suntory Beverage and Food' based in the Forest of Dean also had an embarrassment of over stock and arranged for the hospital to receive all their surplus. Responsible for some of the best known brands in the UK, we started to get lorry loads of Lucozade and Ribena arriving at Southmead. Again, our little team put our collective shoulders to the wheel and distributed these products on a daily basis.

"Many similar donations were received and the team, ably assisted by too many others to mention, carried on with this service until there were no more donations arriving.

"It was fairly confusing to start with as no hard and fast rules had been set in place but, very quickly, this changed and, as a 70-year-old male, I was stood down from my Move Making duties. Pleading with my boss to allow me to work in the back offices of the hospital I was found an administrative task to support nursing staff which I am still involved to this day.

"There will be other memories by other staff but our little band of Move Makers still chat about those 'good times' during the pandemic."