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Bristol Royal Infirmary

Coordinates: 51°27′32″N 2°35′47″W / 51.4590°N 2.5963°W / 51.4590; -2.5963
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Bristol Royal Infirmary
University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust
Bristol Royal Infirmary
Bristol Royal Infirmary is located in Bristol
Bristol Royal Infirmary
Shown in Bristol
LocationBristol, England, United Kingdom
Coordinates51°27′32″N 2°35′47″W / 51.4590°N 2.5963°W / 51.4590; -2.5963
Care systemPublic NHS
Affiliated universityUniversity of Bristol, Faculty of Health and Social Care University of the West of England
Emergency departmentYes Accident & Emergency
SpecialityCardiothoracic services for the South West region, adult cystic fibrosis centre for Severn
Websitewww.uhbristol.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors/your-hospitals/bristol-royal-infirmary/ Edit this at Wikidata
ListsHospitals in England

The Bristol Royal Infirmary, also known as the BRI, is a large teaching hospital in the centre of Bristol, England. It has links with the nearby University of Bristol and the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the University of the West of England, also in Bristol.

The BRI is one of nine hospitals operated by the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust. It is on the same site as the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre, and Bristol Heart Institute (BHI).[2] The Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre has 49 beds and the Bristol Heart Institute has 107, which are not included in the main hospital's total.[1]


Early history[edit]

Plan of the first infirmary, 1742

The Bristol Royal Infirmary was founded by public subscription in 1735, making it one of the oldest infirmaries in the United Kingdom.[3] The initial site was on Maudlin Lane (now Lower Maudlin Street), in what is now the Rheumatology Centre. The infirmary was opened in December 1737, taking 17 male and 17 female patients.[4]

picture of a hospital ward in the BRI
A ward in the BRI, 1872

In 1904, Sir George White, who gave Bristol its first electric tramway service and established what was to become the Bristol Aeroplane Company, saved the hospital from debts of over £15,000 by increasing the number of subscribed donors and planning a fundraising carnival at Bristol Zoo.[5] White was appointed president of the hospital in 1906. Recognising the need to modernise the hospital building to keep up with innovations in science and medicine, he established a £50,000 fund for a new hospital building.[6] This led to the construction of the Edward VII Memorial Wing which was designed by Charles Holden and completed in 1912.[7] During the First World War, the Memorial Wing at Bristol Royal Infirmary together with Southmead Hospital were requisitioned by the War Office to create the 2nd Southern General Hospital, a facility for the Royal Army Medical Corps to treat military casualties.[8]

After World War I there were attempts to amalgamate the Royal Infirmary with Bristol General Hospital to allow greater division of labour and the provision of specialist services. In 1920 Henry Herbert Wills sought to promote this by depositing £105,070 in a trust to be handed over if the hospitals could be combined. This proved impossible because of a century-long rivalry between the two, exacerbated by the Royal Infirmary being supported primarily by Anglican Tories, while the General Hospital was supported by nonconformist Whigs. The joke in Bristol was that 'patients going to the Infirmary would receive a sovereign remedy, but those at the Hospital a radical cure'.[4]

Post-war development[edit]

Geoffrey Tovey, serologist and founder of the UK Transplant Service, worked at the hospital shortly before the Second World War.[9] The hospital became part of the National Health Service in 1948 and was greatly extended in the 1960s. The Queen's Building extension opened in 1972, the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre, located behind the main hospital building, opened in 1971 and the adjacent Bristol Heart Institute opened in 2009.[10]

Bristol heart scandal[edit]

The Bristol heart scandal, which resulted in the deaths of a number of babies and young children during heart surgery (1984–1995) led to the Kennedy Report into paediatric cardiac surgical services at the hospital. The report, which was published in 2001, led to greater emphasis on clinical governance within the NHS and the publication of the performance ratings of individual heart surgeons.[11]


In April 2011, the trust board approved an £80 million redevelopment of the hospital, consisting of a new ward block on Terrell Street behind the hospital, the refurbishment of the Queen's building, the conversion of wards in the King Edward building and the decommissioning of the Old Building.[12] In September 2011, it was announced that Laing O'Rourke had signed a contract to redevelop the hospital and build an extension to the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.[13]

The redevelopment project included purpose-built medical and elderly care admissions units, a state-of-the-art intensive care unit, a surgical floor and a helipad on the roof of the Queen's Building.[14]

The redevelopment also included building a new Welcome Centre at the main entrance of the hospital and a new facade for the Queen's building, once voted one of the ugliest buildings in Bristol, designed by the Spanish firm Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos.[15] Construction began on the new hospital ward block in March 2011, with the demolition of buildings on Terrell Street. The newly completed Welcome Centre was opened to the public in December 2013.[16] In May 2014, the helipad became fully operational and started receiving air ambulances from Bristol and the surrounding area, speeding up transfer times for patients who were being airlifted to the hospital. The HELP Appeal supported the construction of the helipad with a grant of £500,000.[17]

Notable staff[edit]

  • Anna Beatrix Ballie (1864–1958),[18] Matron 1898–1923, also Principal Matron Territorial Force Nursing Service 2nd Southern General Hospital (BRI and Southmead Hospitals), 1914–1919. Baillie trained at The London Hospital under Eva Luckes in 1888.[19] Baillie became one of the first supporters and promoters of the College of Nursing (now RCN). [20] Baillie was noted as an 'inspiring manager' who established a well respected training school for nurses.[21]


The archives of the Bristol Royal Infirmary are held at Bristol Archives (Ref. 35893) (online catalogue). The School of Nursing (Ref. 38973) (online catalogue, online catalogue), records of surgery and the dispensary (Ref. 38990) (online catalogue) and records relating to the 1991 inquiry into children's heart surgery at the infirmary (Ref. 45591) (online catalogue) are also held at Bristol Archives, as well as photographs (Ref. 40660) (online catalogue). A substantial quantity of material about the history of the infirmary can be found in papers collected by the surgeon Richard Smith (Ref. 35893/36) (online catalogue) and (Ref. 14754) (online catalogue).[22]

Hospital charity[edit]

Bristol & Weston Hospitals Charity (BWHC) raises money for all ten hospitals in the trust, to provide equipment, ward refurbishments and additional extras. It was formerly known as Above & Beyond and has existed since 1974. In 2013, the charity's Golden Gift Appeal raised £6 million.[23] For the year to March 2022, the charity's income was £2.64 million.[24]

In popular culture[edit]

Holby City Hospital, in the fictional city of Holby, which appears in the BBC medical dramas Casualty and Holby City, is based on the BRI.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust". Severn Postgraduate Medical Education. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  2. ^ "Bristol Heart Institute Clinical Services". University Hospitals Bristol. 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  3. ^ Munro Smith, p. 6
  4. ^ a b "The Voluntary Medical Institutions of Bristol". Bristol Historical Association. 27 November 1984 – via Internet Archive.
  5. ^ Munro Smith, p. 416
  6. ^ Munro Smith, p. 417
  7. ^ "Bristol Royal Infirmary, by Charles Holden (1912)". Architects Journal. 10 July 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  8. ^ "Bristol Royal Infirmary". Historic Hospitals. 4 February 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  9. ^ "Obituary: Geoffrey Tovey". The Telegraph. 20 December 2001. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal to officially open the Bristol Heart Institute". University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  11. ^ Inquiry, Bristol Royal Infirmary (1 July 2001). "The Inquiry into the management of care of children receiving complex heart surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary". webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 11 August 2009.
  12. ^ "Who We Are and What We Do | University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust". Uhbristol.nhs.uk. 27 September 2011. Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  13. ^ "£80m Bristol hospital project for Laing O'Rourke". The Construction Index. 28 September 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  14. ^ "Redevelopment projects | University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust". Uhbristol.nhs.uk. Archived from the original on 1 March 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  15. ^ "Bristol Royal Infirmary facade design winner announced". BBC. 30 July 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Doors to open at new Welcome Centre". University Hospitals Bristol. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  17. ^ "Bristol Royal Infirmary". Helicopter Emergency Landing Pads Appeal. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  18. ^ "Anonymous, 'Honours for Nurses (continued)'". The Nursing Times. 12: 90. 27 January 1916.
  19. ^ Rogers, Sarah (2022). 'A Maker of Matrons’? A study of Eva Lückes’s influence on a generation of nurse leaders:1880–1919' (Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Huddersfield, April 2022)
  20. ^ Letter from A. McIntosh and A.B. Baillie, ‘The College of Nursing and State Registration’, 20 November 1916; RCN4/1918/1/9; The Royal College of Nursing Archives, Edinburgh.
  21. ^ "'A Great Western Training School'". The Nursing Times. 3 (105): 385–387. 4 May 1907.
  22. ^ "Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol". National Archives. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  23. ^ "Golden Gift Appeal". Bristol and Weston Hospitals Charity. Retrieved 6 February 2023.
  24. ^ "University Hospitals Bristol & Weston Charity: Financial history". Charity Commission. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  25. ^ Kingsley, Hilary (1995). Casualty : the inside story (Rev. ed.). London: Penguin. ISBN 0140249028. OCLC 33969163.


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