Epsom Hospital Equipment Fund (EMEF) has been praised for contributions to the community as it marked 40 years since it was founded.

Founder Bess Harding MBE was praised by hospital staff in Epsom on the anniversary, while a director at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust highlighted how much the Fund had contributed to improving healthcare in the area (see below).

Established in 1979, the EMEF was initially called Epsom Endoscopy Fund, and was the creation of volunteers in the Epsom area led by Ms Harding.

She suggested using a local lottery fund of £30,000 received by Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (EEBC) at that time be spent on a computerized tomography (CT) scanner for Epsom General Hospital, without realising the total cost was closer to £230,000, with £2,000-per-week running costs.

Undeterred by the news, Ms Harding defied the odds and helped fundraise for the total amount, successfully bringing the CT scanner to the hospital in what marked the first in a long line of remarkable achievements by the EMEF team and their supporters in the community.

Dr. Kirsten Younger, a Consultant Radiologist at Epsom Hospital for over 27 years, reflected on that historic moment for EMEF's anniversary.

"When I arrived, Epsom had no CT Scanner. Bess defied all odds to fund raise that whopping £230,000 to purchase our first ever CT.

"This was a remarkable achievement and really put our hospital on the map. Actor Brian Blessed was our chosen celebrity to officially ‘open’ the scanner, a day to remember," she recalled.

Since then, according to EMEF, more than £4 million has been raised to help Epsom and St Helier hospitals purchase vital equipment that goes to help them provide the best possible care to patients, including the installation of entire new X-Ray facility costing £70,000.

Responding to a request for comment from the Comet, Director of Communications and Patient Experience at Epsom and St Helier hospitals, Lisa Thomson, paid tribute to Ms Harding and EMEF's work, saying that their efforts had made a "real difference" to the provision of care in the community.

"The Epsom Medical Equipment Fund (EMEF) has provided a significant amount of funding and equipment for Epsom Hospital over the last 40 years.

"Bess has helped the Trust acquire a wide variety of equipment; from CT scanners, ultrasound machines and diagnostic equipment costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, to wheelchairs, specialist pillows and countless other purchases that have made a real difference," Ms Thomson said.

"Bess and the EMEF have helped us to improve the experience of our patients, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bess, and the EMEF volunteers and supporters for their continued dedication to and support for Epsom Hospital," she added.

Ms Harding also offered some reflection on the remarkable journey EMEF had gone on since she recommended the CT scanner back in 1979.

"The benefit to the local community, to whom we owe a huge thank you for their support over this period of time, has been enormous," she said.

Indomitable as ever, Ms Harding continues to fundraise for the two NHS Trusts, and urged residents in the area to attend one of the Fund's upcoming fun

"Do look out for us at local events and in the Ashley Shopping Centre as well as our Car Boot Sales (held in the staff car park at the front of the hospital on Sundays twice a month from March to October) when we will be selling goods to raise money for our local hospital, Epsom General Hospital," she said.

"Your support is most welcome..."

To find out more, visit: http://www.emef.org.uk/