They call it Ruby Radio, and now into its 40th year, Hillingdon Hospital's own dedicated radio station has widened its net to become bigger than ever before. DAN COOMBS logs on
LAST Tuesday, a short ceremony was held to mark the moment a small team of broadcasters catapulted their show into the stratosphere of the world wide web.
After four decades of history, Radio Hillingdon has taken a major step forward which should safeguard its future.
The idea is that patients who have enjoyed the shows during their stay in hospital can continue listening after they leave by downloading broadcasts, and also that relatives of patients can listen to the same shows as their loved ones, even if they cannot be with them.
But how did Radio Hillingdon begin? In 1970, five apprentices from EMI in Hayes, full of entrepreneurial spirit - Gerald French, John Mandrak, David Brown, Steve Jones and Pat Flaherty - decided to broadcast Christmas carols and messages to patients in Hillingdon Hospital.
This was done from a small staff room at the hospital in Pield Heath Road, Hillingdon.
The idea to brighten up patients' time in hospital came from a fellow EMI employee, Alan Hardy, who at the time was also running a similar service at the West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth.
After the initial launch a weekly programme of requests was broadcast live each Sunday evening, and Radio Hillingdon was established.
Shortly after, the volunteers set up shop in a small electrician's shack, where evening and weekend programmes were broadcast, and when it was time for that to be demolished a new home was built at the hospital, opened in December 1978 by Henry Cooper OBE. This is still home to the station today.
David Brown came back to the station last Tuesday for the celebrations. Chris Allum, volunteer and former chairman, explained the role of Radio Hillingdon. "The radio is just one less thing for patients to feel traumatised about," he said.
"What else is quite nice is that, when visitors have to leave at eight o'clock, which is traditionally a sad time, they can now send in text messages to the station, which can be read out and broadcast to patients who will be listening."
Steve Hickman, chairman, has been a volunteer for the station for 18 years. He said: "I am delighted to be chairman during our 40th year.
"I am always extremely proud to tell people about the valuable contribution our volunteers make each week, ensuring the patients of the hospital enjoy their stay and are distracted from their illness."
Patients can tune in free of charge by going to channel 45 on their bedside entertainment terminal, and can also become involved by requesting music of their choice.
Jacqueline Walker, the hospital's deputy director of nursing, said: "Radio Hillingdon offers an important service to our patients and we are delighted to celebrate this milestone with them.
"The station entertains our patients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and provides an invaluable comfort to those staying in hospital."
Now the traditional 'narrowcast' of the hospital environs is as broad as it can be, thanks to the power of the internet. * For more information, or to listen live, visit www.radiohillingdon.com .