In 2013, Winchester Hospital Radio broadcast within the 450-bed Royal Hampshire County Hospital.
However, sadly, patients in only 100 beds could tune-in.
Discussions between the NHS Trust and Hospedia about replacing the system were stalled. The station's studio equipment (almost 25 years old) and computer playout systems (10+ years old) needed replacement – and thus fundraising – and the volunteer team, by now down to around 10 active volunteers, needed revitalising.
Having reviewed the alternatives, including closing the station, a bold plan was devised to remain as a health-related charity, but to relaunch as a community radio station, promoting health & wellbeing and active, positive ageing to the older generation in Winchester.
Positive discussions took place with local NHS organisations and councils. Innovative charitable objects covering health promotion were agreed with the Charity Commission, the charity was reconstituted as a new-style CIO; a successful application made to Ofcom; fundraising successes and home-designed technical innovation, saving thousands of pounds, enabled all-new equipment to be commissioned; and recruitment campaigns grew the volunteer team by a factor of three. The new Winchester Radio launched on 24th March 2019.
Exactly a year later, it had to pivot to support the local community in a time of dire need – something that it has coped with admirably. Remote broadcasting capabilities were rolled-out within days, and volunteers retrained to broadcast from home. Additional news and information bulletins were added to the schedule. The station has played a key part in keeping the local community informed and healthy throughout the pandemic.
Also, throughout the transformation, other hospital radio stations have been kept informed of progress via the HBA, and those who have decided to adopt similar plans helped with advice, guidance, model constitutions and Ofcom applications. 25 other stations have, so far, converted to a CIO with the same charitable objects; two have successfully applied for FM community radio licences.