ACCIDENT and Emergency staff at Yeovil District Hospital are celebrating after exceeding their amazing £100,000 target for new equipment to help patients.

They will be delighted to receive a cheque for the final amount from the Friends of Verrington Hospital, Wincanton, today (Friday).

Nursing and administrative staff set up their own ambitious appeal, Accidents Need Equipment, while the A&E department was being extensively re-built in a £1.8 million scheme funded by the NHS Modernisation Programme and East Somerset NHS Trust in 2000-1.

The appeal was launched by Paddy Ashdown in October 2000, and made its first major leap with a bumper £40,000 donated by the League of Friends of Yeovil Hospital.

Fundraising events included a fashion show, auction of promises, family day, bingo, race night, and collections. Local businesses and Yeovil Chamber of Trade and Commerce have also given valuable support.

Outstanding individual efforts included Crewkerne police officer Martin Surrey, who rowed 740,000 metres indoors and David Rowe, who cycled from John O'Groats to Land's End.

Equipment already purchased from the fund includes new monitors and a central monitoring station, so that patients can be overseen from one point; patient care trolleys; electric operated couches; pressure relieving mattresses and an ice machine.

The final cheque for £250 takes the final amount to £100,250, and the appeal has now been formally closed. The fundraising team, headed by charge nurse Patrick Letherby and staff nurse Jo Whaites, are holding a final meeting to decide which items of equipment to buy with the last remaining amount.

Jo said: "We want to thank everyone who has given so generously to this appeal.

"When we started it seemed an impossible dream to raise £100,000 but now, thanks largely to our League of Friends here and in Verrington, we have exceeded this amazing total.

"People often comment on our modern new building, but they don't always notice new equipment. However, the extras we have been able to buy are making a real difference to the comfort and treatment of patients."

The new A&E department at Yeovil was officially opened by HRH the Duke of Gloucester in May 2002.