THE phrase boom town has been used to describe Colchester many times.

Over the past decade the town has regularly ranked amongst the fastest growing the country and again last year was recognised as the most rapidly expanding in the east, and one of the quickest growing in the UK.

In 2010, the town's population was roughly 171,000 - as of the middle of last year this figure was 195,000.

The rise, of roughly 14 per cent within just a decade, has left undeniable strain on our frontline services.

But we've also seen huge improvements and the rapid expansion of many.

Nowhere else is this more obvious than at Colchester Hospital.

When the hospital was first opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1985, it had 283 beds across nine wards.

Today it had more than 750 across 24 wards and departments - many with the most modern, high-tech facilities.

The growth of the hospital, which has seen it almost triple in number of beds since it opened, has only been accelerated as the town's population continues to grow.

There has been hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment at the Turner Road site, and the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust is not done yet.

Over the years there have been so many smaller refurbishments of the facilities it is almost impossible to count.

But a number of larger projects have also helped transform the facility into what it is today.

At the start of the decade the specialist isolation and stroke ward opened as an extension to Gainsborough Wing.

One of the biggest jumps in size came in 2010/11when a whole new ward block was created at the Turner Road site.

The new block, encompassing the children's ward, Mersea Ward and elective care, brought state-of-the-art facilities with it.


  • A new cancer centre opened at Colchester Hospital in 2018

Between 2011 and 2012 the hospital created its new decontamination unit, a £5 million clinical sterilisation hub for the premises.

In 2014 A&E at the hospital was reconfigured and the brand-new £25 million radiotherapy centre opened its doors for the first time.

A new combined blood sciences lab opened just two-years-later and the maternity ward was revamped, with a new central delivery suite and birthing pools.

Of course, when the decade began, Colchester actually had two hospitals.

The historic Essex County Hospital, in Lexden Road, continued to operate until 2018 but many services had already been relocated by the time it closed.

To enable services to transfer in 2017 a £2 million breast unit was created at the Turner Road site and the same year a cellular pathology lab built.

The following year another another maternity ward refurbishment took place.

Gainsborough Wing and the primary care areas were also upgraded before Essex County Hospital finally closed in November.

Of course all of the development's have not been funded by the taxpayer.

In 2018 the hospital's new Time Garden opened following a successful £160,000 fundraising campaign led by cancer patient Tracy Tye.


  • Colchester Hospital's Time Garden

Sadly Mrs Tye died before she could cut the ribbon, but husband Colin, of Harwich, had the honour in June 2018.

But the time garden was but a drop in the ocean compared to Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity largest ever fundraising campaign.

Over four-years, from 2015 to 2019, kind-hearted north Essex residents helped raised £3.25 million to build a new cancer centre at the hospital.

Following support from the Gazette, in an award-nominated campaign, the centre was finally ready to welcome its first patients last year.


  • Campaigners celebrate making the cancer centre a reality 

A new wellbeing centre for cancer patients has also been added.

The hospital's mortuary was also refurbished in 2018.

Last year the iconic main entrance to the hospital was ripped down in preparation for a rebuild.

The new facility has an M&S, a Costa Coffee and a WH Smith, with the retailers helping pay for the development and bringing the hospital into the modern age.

Work to create a new Urgent Treatment Centre, to triage patients for treatment, also opened the same year with new radiology and cardiac units.

The list of improvements and major developments is huge, and work isn't done yet.

Colchester Hospital has been chosen as the site for a new £44 million elective care centre.

It will treat patients from north Essex, Ipswich and east Suffolk who need planned orthopaedic surgeries such as hip and knee replacements.

The investment is the largest single development at the hospital in decades and when it opens in 2024, bosses believe it will attract the best medical talent in the country to Colchester.

There is also set to be a rejig of the set up of the A&E department in order to increase capacity for the town's inevitable growth in the year's to come.

A new staff car park is being built and there are plans for further developments going forward.

The hospital is growing, and will continue to do so as town's population grows.

We face other issues relating to an ageing population.

In the middle of last year 34,000 people in the borough were above the age of 65 - roughly 17 per cent.

This percentage figure will surely rise too as it will across the country.

But hospital bosses are confident the facility will be ready for whatever growth it faces.

Paul Fenton, director of estates and facilities at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We want to do the absolute best for our patients. Having an estate and facilities that enable our medical teams to deliver high quality care is a top priority for us.

“There have been a number of developments at Colchester Hospital over the years to improve our ward areas and other departments.

"The town has seen significant growth in this time too and the hospital has had to grow with it.

“We are very proud of all the great work that has been done and continues to be done to improve the building – both now and in the future – for our patients, visitors and staff alike.”