It began life as a private hospital specialising in heart surgery but failed to make a profit.

Built by American company Health Care International (HCI) on a former Clydebank shipyard site, the owners had hoped to capitalise on the lucrative medical tourism market.

But just six months after opening in 1994, receivers were involved and several months after that, the £180million hospital was taken over by the Abu Dhabi Investment Company.

Following the sharp increase in the price of oil in the 1980s, Middle East countries were awash with money and looking to invest in profitable projects.

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However their venture proved unsuccessful. Only 52 of the hospital’s 540 beds were in use and the debts piled up.

There were no direct flights from the UAE to Scotland, which made it difficult for patients to travel to Glasgow for surgery.

Nurses were recruited locally and were paid wages substantially higher than comparable NHS rates, which he says was seen as taking much-needed trained staff away from the area’s hospitals.

READ MORE: 'Life changing' heart procedure available to Scots after 10-year fundin battle 

According to Professor Brian Hay, of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh who studied the hospital’s evolution, having a private facility in a working class area in the West of Scotland did not go down well with local people.

He wrote: “The hospital was regarded by the residents (or maybe more correctly the local council) as “not for them‟ as it did not meet their health needs (as local NHS patients) and this led to resentment in the area.”

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“The local Council (West Dunbartonshire) were very much against the hospital (Wallace, 2009), even although it provided jobs for local residents. A good example is that it took three years for the Council to provide directional road signs.”

To alleviate pressures, the company opened up their under-used facilities to NHS patients with heart problems and operations were performed by HCI surgeons at subsidised costs to the NHS.

Professor Hay says this was difficult issue for the Scottish Executive which was controlled by the Labour party, because it went against the ethos of the NHS. 

It was eventually purchased by the Labour administration in 2002 for £37.5 million to cut NHS waiting times.

READ MORE: 'No doubt' Covid damages heart after ground-breaking Scots study 

A controversial move at the time but one that arguably paid off.

As well as helping drive down waiting lists for routine procedures, over the past 20 years the hospital has been responsible for major advances in the treatment of heart disease and hip and knee replacement surgery.

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A new two-theatre orthopaedic suite was added in 2003, which was amongst the most advanced in Europe and patients can now expect to leave hospital within 11 hours of having a hip replacement.

The Golden Jubilee was the first to replace a patient’s heart valve through a vein in the leg, avoiding the need for open-heart surgery and knee replacements are now carried out using a robot.

Over the last two decades, the Golden Jubilee has carried out close to one million procedures, treating patients from every health board area in Scotland. In the past year it has performed a record 24 heart transplants.

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Initially known as the National Waiting Times Centre, it was later renamed the Golden Jubilee National Hospital. 

Early patients praised the state-of-the-art facilities saying it was akin to being treated in a private hospital but all the treatment here was free.

Professor Jann Gardner was appointed Chief Executive of the Golden Jubilee in 2019 but had actually started her career in the private hospital - as chief pharmacist before progressing through managerial roles there and within the NHS.

“If we park the politics of that time, it was about clinical excellence and an absolute commitment to quality," she said.

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“I learned what quality standards were all about, I learned about how pricing and quality went together.

“It was a really inspirational space and was ahead of its time and I still smile at the fact that we had electronic everything at that stage - I joined in 1995 and here we are in 2022 and we are still on that journey.”

However, she doesn’t hesitate when asked whether she regrets her move from the private sector to the NHS.

“It was a wonderful initiative back then but there is a real joy in looking after people in the NHS," said Prof Gardner.

“We sit in service to Scotland and I think we are a real asset to Scotland."

READ MORE: Scotland experiencing another Covid wave fuelled by new variants 

Golden Jubilee was a non-Covid centre but did treat a small number of patients who became seriously ill because of its expertise in lung diseases.

“We tried to stay as a green site [treating patients who have been assessed as having no current risk of Covid] and politically to establish that, I think was a really good thing for Scotland.

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“It’s not about performance, performance is numbers and numbers are people but this year have done 8% above the activity we planned and higher than pre-Covid levels and that is no mean feat with all the adjustments we had to make.”

The hospital took on some additional specialties including cancer surgery to ease pressure on other hospitals. While this has now ended Prof Gardner said this may be replicated over the high-pressured winter season.

“We have tried to get back to what we believe Jubilee is about. We are a high volume centre and then specialist heart, lung and diagnostics.

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“So we are focussed back there but with growth in areas such as heart transplants.”

She said the hospital is now in discussions with the Scottish Government about introducing screening for lung cancer, which has already been approved in England.

“We are waiting to find out what Scotland’s position is. It would be for patients who are most at risk and sadly Scotland in heart and lung sits right at the top of those groups.”

What was unusual about the former HCI hospital was that it also included a 240-bedroom, four-star hotel.

The owners are said to have found it challenging to attract non-medical tourism business because guests did not like to see people in their dressing gowns and drips in the Beardmore Hotel's public areas.

It now provides free accommodation for patients who travel from all over Scotland for everything from cataract surgery to knee replacements and open heart surgery.

On July 26, Georgina Burt will bring a cake to the Golden Jubilee to share with the hospital’s heart transplant team.

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Fourteen years ago she became the first patient to receive a new heart. A further 175 patients have had the life-saving surgery since services transferred in 2008.

The 67-year-old, who lives in Falkirk, was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, after suffering a stroke in her early 50s.

She was warned that a transplant was an inevitability as the condition worsened and by the age of 53 her heart function had dropped to less than 10%. She was admitted to the hospital and put on the transplant list but says she was fortunate that she only waited a few weeks.

“It was a Sunday night and my husband had just gone home [from hospital] and a nurse came over and said ‘we think we’ve got a match for you.

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“When I got the transplant I felt great, perfect,” she says. “Before I couldn’t walk and do a lot of things. 

“It was such a lovely hospital," she reflects.

Future ambitions for the Golden Jubilee include developing the training academy which delivers fast-track courses for a wide range of NHS jobs.

“We’ve got some real workforce gaps and we are not able to fill them in the traditional ways so we have created accelerated courses which are delivered using simulations.

“You might be in a room that feels like a theatre and what we are finding is that people are learning much faster.

“It could be training pharmacists how to use a stethoscope and how to diagnose in the community. That’s a huge capability step-up for Scotland in the high street.”

The academy is also targeting school leavers from deprived areas “who might not even have an aspiration for employment, ever”  ex-military “who are used to working in high-pressured environments.”

The hospital’s chief executive admits that leading a hospital that is designed to cut waiting times at a time when the NHS is facing unprecedented strain comes with a fair bit of pressure.

“The truthful answer is of course, yes,” she says.

“However I do think there is something about...when the purpose of the job is clear and it's genuinely fulfilling that offsets a lot of it."