Hospital radio first began back in the 1920’s when broadcasts were only football commentaries. Today, hospital radio provides a much wider entertainment service carrying music (including patients requests), news, local events, community service information etc. Most stations remain loyal to their roots and continue broadcasts from local sporting events.
A hospital radio station for the Rotherham District General Hospital was the result of two years planning, research and hope until in 1978 Radio Nightingale was born.
At one of the first meetings of the original committee the name of the service was high on the agenda. Originally running under the official title of Rotherham Hospitals Radio Service this meeting chose a name which was less of a mouthful! The station was not named after Florence Nightingale as many immediately presume, but in memory of Elizabeth Nightingale who had donated the then princely sum of £1,000 to the Moorgate Hospital to set up a radio station following her hospital stay. The transfer of hospital services to Rotherham District General Hospital took place before the station was off the ground.
A plea for volunteers was placed in the Rotherham Advertiser in January 1978 and people came forward. After just three months of training, the original Nightingale crew went on air on 4 June 1978 (the original plan had been for the 31st of May, only a minor technical hiccup of the mixing desk not arriving held up proceedings) with Dave Marriott the first Radio Nightingale presenter at 7pm.
Originally broadcasts were restricted to three evenings a week and Sunday mornings, six years later the schedule was expanded to broadcasting a few hours every day, it was a further fourteen years before broadcasting was extended to all day, every day.
At first the broadcasts were only to the patients of the Rotherham District General Hospital by way of the bedside headset units. A Post Office Landline was hired in 1981 to allow the patients of the Doncaster Gate Hospital to receive Radio Nightingale programmes as well. A second landline, to the Montague Hospital in Mexborough was installed in 1983, both remaining in action until the closure of the hospitals to in-patients. In the early 1990’s members raised £25,000 for the installation of an inductive loop system which allows Radio Nightingale programmes to be received on a standard transistor radio on the frequency of 945mw. In July 1998 the Radio Authority, now OFCOM, announced the provision of low powered freely radiating transmission licences to all single site radio stations. Radio Nightingale was granted one of these licences on the frequency of 1350mw with broadcasts beginning on May 11th 1999. One year later the Patientline (now Hospedia) bedside entertainment units were installed at Rotherham General Hospital with Radio Nightingale joining the line-up of the free radio channels available on the system. Radio Nightingale launched broadcasting online on June 2nd 2013 to mark the 35th anniversary of the station.
Radio Nightingale continues to broadcast on 945 and 1350mw, Hospedia and Online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.