More than 50 years ago, Reginald Broom, group engineer at Salisbury Infirmary, was involved in hiring films, according to hospital archives. Cuttings from the time reveal that as far back as the late 1940s, Mr Broom was renting films from MGM to show to long-stay patients in hospital.

In 1970, Mr Broom, who showed the films as a voluntary activity, was quoted as saying: 'The film shows break up the dreary hospital routine for patients, as well as providing a useful meeting point for them.'

He prided himself in getting the best of the current productions as soon as they became available for private showings.

For instance, in February 1970 the films he was showing included Thoroughly Modern Millie with Julie Andrews and The Dirty Dozen with Lee Marvin.

'When I started, any film would do,' he said. 'Some of the patients had never seen a film before I started doing the ward rounds at the infirmary.'

In the 1940s, he showed pre-war Rank releases and then did a deal with MGM where he was allowed to show recent films, provided he organised village showings as well. He was then able to negotiate with other companies, including Twentieth Century Fox.

He managed to get hold of Carousel just after its release - but had to buy his own Cinemascope lens to show it. Mr Broom rented one film a week from the big distributors and offered one show a week on a rota at three local hospitals.

It was all done with a 'minute grant' from the hospital management committee and a voluntary collection made by patients.