Royal London Hospital

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Royal London Hospital
Barts Health NHS Trust
Royal London Hospital redevelopment.jpg
The new Royal London Hospital building
Location Whitechapel Road
London, E1
United Kingdom[1]
Care system NHS
Hospital type Teaching
Affiliated university Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Emergency department Yes
Beds 675
Founded 1740; 277 years ago (1740)

The Royal London Hospital is a large teaching hospital in London, United Kingdom. It is part of Barts Health NHS Trust. The Royal London provides district general hospital services for the City and Tower Hamlets and specialist tertiary care services for patients from across London and elsewhere. It is also the base for London's Air Ambulance, operating out of a rooftop helipad. There are 675 beds, 110 wards and 26 operating theatres at the Royal London Hospital. The new building opened in February 2012.

The Royal London was founded in September 1740 and was originally named the London Infirmary. The name changed to the London Hospital in 1748, and in 1990 to the Royal London Hospital. The first patients were treated at a house in Featherstone Street, Moorfields. In May 1741, the hospital moved to Prescot Street, and remained there until 1757 when it moved to its current location on the south side of Whitechapel Road, Whitechapel, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.


By the middle of the 18th century there were five voluntary hospitals in London (St Barts, Guy's, St Thomas', Westminster and St George's) which provided free medical care to those who could not afford it, however there were none in the east of the City, serving the rapidly growing, and comparatively impoverished population there; this was the void that the London Hospital was to fill. The institution that was to become the Royal London Hospital was founded on 23 September 1740, when seven gentlemen met in the Feathers Tavern in Cheapside in the City of London to subscribe to the formation of an "intended new infirmary."[2]:20–21 On 3 November the London Infirmary opened in a house on Featherstone Street, Moorfields. The staff consisted of one surgeon, physician and apothecary; and was operated as a voluntary hospital, in which patients were not charged for treatment and their care was funded charitably from annual subscription fees.

In May 1741 the hospital moved to larger premises in Prescot Street, in that time in an exceedingly bad district. In 1742, the 2nd Duke of Richmond was persuaded by the hospital's surgeon, John Harrison, to become the first President of the new hospital.[2]:31 The name changed to the London Hospital around 1748. By 1744 the houses at Prescot Street were in an unfit state and a subscription fund for a new building was opened, and the current site was acquired at Whitechapel Mount (then relatively sparsely built on); however funds were acquired slowly and it was not until September 1757 that patients and staff moved into the new premises, which were purpose-built and accommodated 300 beds.[2]:111–135 The next year, the trustees of the charity acquired a royal charter so that they could constitute themselves as a legal entity.[2]:140

London Hospital, Whitechapel in a 1753 engraving

Medical students had been recorded as studying under the staff of the London Hospital as private pupils since the year it had begun, however it was not until 1785 that the London Hospital Medical College was founded; chiefly through the efforts of William Blizard, the hospital's surgeon. Private medical schools had been long established, but the London College was the first medical school in England and Wales organised in connection with a hospital.[2]:49,162 It amalgamated in 1995 with St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, under the aegis of Queen Mary and Westfield College to become St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Joseph Merrick, known as the "Elephant Man", was admitted to the hospital in 1886 and spent the last few years of life there. His mounted skeleton is currently housed at the medical school, but is not on public display.[3][4]

In the early part of the twentieth century the hospital sent out 160 nurses to work unsupervised in private houses. This earned £4000 a year, a profit of £1700.[5]

Facade of the old Royal London Hospital building

In 1990 the Queen visited the hospital and added "Royal" to the name, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its founding. The present School of Nursing and Midwifery was formed in 1994 by the merger of the schools from St Bartholomew's Hospital and the Royal London Hospital to become the St Bartholomew School of Nursing & Midwifery. Prior to this, the school of nursing was known as the Princess Alexandra College of Nursing and Midwifery. In 1995 the new Nursing School was incorporated into City University, London.

In March 2005 planning permission was granted for a £1 billion redevelopment and expansion of the Royal London Hospital. Sited on the grounds of the existing hospital, the redevelopment will replace the hospital's previously demolished facilities, some of which date back to when the hospital moved to its existing site in 1757.[6] On completion of the project, the hospital will have London’s leading trauma and emergency care centre, one of Europe’s largest renal services and the capital’s second biggest paediatric service. Barts is also undergoing redevelopment and will become a cancer and cardiac centre of excellence.[7]

Royal London Museum and Archives[edit]

The Royal London has a museum which is located in the crypt of a 19th-century church. It reopened in 2002 after extensive refurbishment and is open to the public free of charge. The museum covers the history of the hospital since its foundation in 1740 and the wider history of medicine in the East End. It is a member of the London Museums of Health & Medicine.[8] It includes works of art, surgical instruments, medical and nursing equipment, uniforms, medals, documents and books. There is a forensic medicine section which includes original material on Jack the Ripper, Dr Crippen and the Christie murders. There are also displays on Joseph Merrick (the 'Elephant Man') and former Hospital nurse Edith Cavell.[9][10] There is the model of a church in the hospital that was built by Joseph Merrick who spent the last few years of his life at the hospital.

The Royal London's archives contain documents dating back to 1740, including complete patient records since 1883. The collections are searchable on the Barts Health NHS Trust online catalogue, which contains information on over 50,000 entries and covering an 800-year span.[11]

Emergency & Trauma Centre[edit]

Barts and the London NHS Trust, now absorbed into Barts Health NHS Trust, consists of four tertiary hospitals, St. Bartholomew's, the Royal London, Whipps Cross and Newham General, together producing some of the best clinical outcomes in the UK – evidenced by one of the best survival records in the NHS.[12] The Royal London Hospital treats over 1,400 injury patients annually, more than any other centre in the UK.[13]

The Royal London Hospital is unique in its provision of emergency care with a resident Accident & Emergency Department consultant available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hospital is also home to London’s busiest A&E for children.

The Royal London Hospital is part of a citywide initiative to transform London's emergency and trauma services. In 2010, the London Trauma System was implemented to provide Londoners with world-class trauma care.[14] The network is believed to be the largest of its kind in the world.[15] The System comprises four existing London hospitals, the Royal London Hospital (Whitechapel), King's College Hospital (Denmark Hill), St George's Hospital (Tooting) and St Mary's Hospital (Paddington), supported by a number of trauma units located in various A&E departments where patients with less serious injuries receive treatment.[16]

Clinical quality[edit]

The hospital claims "some of the best clinical results in the UK".[12] Nevertheless, five surgeons resigned in 2011, one of whom blamed shortages of beds, nurses and supplies for shortcomings in care while patients wait for necessary operations.[17] The hospital's Medical Director issued a statement acknowledging that some aspects of orthopaedic care had fallen short of the hospital's high standards, and announced a review by the Royal College of Surgeons. It also referred to the difficulties of using outdated buildings, and looked forward to the forthcoming move to the brand new hospital building which would increase theatre capacity.[18]

Royal London Hospital in the media[edit]

The TV series Casualty 1900s is set at the Royal London, and follows the everyday life of the hospital throughout these years. Some of the storylines are based on actual cases drawn from the hospital records.

Jennifer Worth and the Community of St. John the Divine, an Anglican religious order, used to work as agency midwives and feature in Call the Midwife.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Royal London Hospital Address". 
  2. ^ a b c d e Clark-Kennedy, A.E. (1962). The London: A Study in the Voluntary Hospital System. London: Pittman Medical Publishing Company. 
  3. ^ Cahal Milmo (21 November 2002). "Scientists hope relative can help explain Elephant Man". London: The Independent. Retrieved 27 May 2009. 
  4. ^ Joseph Merrick's Autobiography (Joseph Carey Merrick) accessed 7 November 2007
  5. ^ Abel-Smith, Brian (1960). A History of the Nursing Profession. London: Heinemann. p. 6. 
  6. ^ "Royal London Hospital". RMD Kwikform. 11 July 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 
  7. ^ Ben Bradshaw, written Parliamentary answer, Hansard 3 September 2007 accessed 7 November 2007
  8. ^ "Medical Museums". Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  9. ^ Jones, Richard (2003). Frommer's Memorable Walks in London. John Wiley and Sons. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-7645-6743-8. 
  10. ^ Royal London Hospital Museum (Museums of Health and Medicine) accessed 7 November 2007 Archived 13 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ "About the Catalogue". St Barts & Royal London Archive Catalogue. Barts Health NHS Trust. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  12. ^ a b "Improving clinical quality". Barts and The London. Retrieved 9 December 2011. 
  13. ^ Trauma, Barts and the London Link. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  14. ^ London's trauma system, NHS London Trauma Office. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  15. ^ "Capital gets new trauma network". BBC News. 5 April 2010. 
  16. ^ About the system, NHS London Trauma Office. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  17. ^ Davey, Ed (1 December 2011). "Barts and the London Hospital surgeons quit over 'dangerous' situation". BBC News. Retrieved 9 December 2011. 
  18. ^ "Statement from Dr Steve Ryan, Medical Director". Barts and The London NHS Trust. 2 December 2011. Archived from the original on 9 December 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Sheila M. Collins (1995). The Royal London Hospital: A Brief History. Royal London Hospital Archives and Museum. ISBN 0-9517976-1-1. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°31′05″N 0°03′33″W / 51.51812°N 0.05929°W / 51.51812; -0.05929