Bruntsfield Hospital was an Edinburgh hospital which started in 1878 as a women's dispensary (out-patient clinic) opened by the city's first female doctor, Sophia Jex-Blake. It soon added some beds for in-patients, and moved from a busy, central area to the more peaceful Bruntsfield before the turn of the century. Its name from 1885, Edinburgh Hospital and Dispensary for Women and Children, continued in formal use into the 1930s, but before 1920 it started to be known as the Bruntsfield Hospital. For a few years, another of Scotland's pioneering female doctors, Elsie Inglis, was a consultant there. In 1948 the hospital was absorbed into the National Health Service (NHS); it closed in 1989.
In 1878 Jex-Blake opened the Edinburgh Provident Dispensary for Women and Children to offer advice and medicines to working-class patients, either subscribers or non-paying "charity" patients. At first she treated out-patients only, although from 1883 a few patients who needed rest were accommodated in her newly-bought Regency house, Bruntsfield Lodge, to which she also moved her private practice.
The dispensary became the Edinburgh Hospital and Dispensary for Women and Children in 1885, the year when it opened a small ward for in-patients near the original premises. The annual report that year said that "the Provident system was being more and more used to the evident advantage of both patients and doctor".
1899 - 1910
When Jex-Blake retired and moved away in 1899, she left funds for trustees to buy or build a new hospital. In fact her own house was bought and fitted out by the hospital committee: a committee led by well-connected women active in various social reform projects, Flora Stevenson and Sarah Mair among them. The following year things were ready for patients to be transferred to the improved hospital.
In 1899 there was discussion about joining forces with Elsie Inglis and her Medical Women's Club, but Inglis set up a separate small charitable nursing home for maternity patients. In 1904 they moved to bigger premises which they called The Hospice, adding a dispensary, and maintaining links with the establishment at Bruntsfield, where Inglis was appointed senior consultant in 1905. Her partner in private practice was Jessie Macgregor, an ex-student of the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women who worked for some years at the Hospital and Dispensary for Women and Children.
Expansion, change and closure
Financial and administrative amalgamation came in 1910, when a new hospital building was constructed in the grounds of the old 'Lodge' and officially opened by Queen Mary in 1911. The Hospice continued to care for mothers and babies, Bruntsfield took gynaecological, medical and surgical patients, and the dispensaries carried on as before. When the new Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital opened in 1925, there was a joint finance and executive committee for the two hospitals, but Bruntsfield Hospital had its own management and continued to have its own identity. In 1939 the Executive Committee adopted the familiar 'Bruntsfield Hospital' name in its formal title.
By 1948, when the hospital became part of the NHS Edinburgh Southern Hospital Group, there had been several additions including a children's ward and specialist facilities. The hospital had 80 beds, and some wards had verandahs overlooking the garden. It had built up a fully female staff with three resident medical officers and a range of consultants; the 1950s saw heated debate about the first appointments of male doctors to the staff. The hospital started to take in geriatric patients in the 1970s.
Reorganisation of the NHS in the 1980s led to the closure of Bruntsfield Hospital in 1989. Napier University hoped to use the buildings but the city council turned down their planning applications. In 1991 the exteriors of the Regency house and the 1910-11 annexe were given a Category B listing; three years later the site was developed for residential use.
Addresses and other details: Jex-Blake's Provident Dispensary was at 73 Grove Street, near Haymarket, and from 1885 in-patient beds were provided at 6 Grove Street. Her home and private practice were half a mile away at 4 Manor Place in the New Town. In 1883 she moved to Bruntsfield Lodge, which had been known for decades as Greenhill Cottage, and had a good-sized garden. The 1910-1911 building with a bell roof fronts onto Whitehouse Loan. Elsie Inglis' first nursing home was at 11 George Square. In 1904 this moved to 219 High Street and was called the Hospice.
- Scotsman, 1 December 1885
- The Nursing Record 9 December 1899
- History of Bruntsfield Hospital (Lothian Health Services Archive)
- Bruntsfield Hospital and Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital (Lothian Health Services Archive)
- M.M.Campbell, Four Scottish women's hospitals from their foundations to 1948
- Scotsman archives
- Scran database
- Historic Scotland description