Wednesday 23 September 2020 marks 280 years of The Royal London Hospital caring for our vibrant and diverse community.
The Royal London Hospital has been faced with many challenges over the past 280 years, however the determination from its staff and supporters has enabled it to be where it is today, a world-leading teaching hospital that continues to serve its local community of east London and beyond.
A proud history
The Royal London Hospital dates its origins to 23 September 1740 when it was set up to support those who couldn’t pay for their own healthcare. The London Infirmary, as it was initially known, moved from the cramped original premises in Moorfields to Prescot Street, Goodman’s Fields in May 1741. This became overcrowded and a site was then selected at Mount Field, facing the Whitechapel Road for a new purpose-built hospital.
The London’s expansive site allowed it to develop at pace. From its earliest days it stood at the leading edge of medical development and new initiatives. It had been the first hospital in England to house its own medical school, and in 1895 became the first to offer a preliminary training school for nurses. With a focus on education and training it would go on to become the home for many leading clinicians. From its earliest days the hospital aimed to welcome patients from all backgrounds, including the famous ‘Elephant Man’ Joseph Merrick.
The hospital has come out the other side of some key points in history. In World War I some of the first casualties brought back to Britain were taken to the London. The hospital was badly affected by the Blitz and although some services evacuated, the site continued to be operational throughout the wars.
By the early 20th century the hospital had become the largest charitably funded general hospital in the United Kingdom with over 1,000 beds and continued to lead the way clinically. With the creation of the NHS in 1948 the hospital grew further and along with new discoveries, new technology and a change in the demographics of the population came pressure for more space
The London Hospital was granted its Royal title by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1990 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its opening on the Whitechapel site. In 2012, with space in mind a new state-of-the-art hospital was built on the Whitechapel site. The new Royal London Hospital building was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013.
An exciting future
Since occupying the new building, The Royal London has had some exciting changes and developments. These include developing its major trauma centre, which was set up as part of the London Trauma Network following learnings from 2005’s 7/7 attacks. The hospital is the home of London’s Air Ambulance and sits in the middle of the emerging life sciences district. Barts Health and Queen Mary University of London, supported by Barts Charity, have come together to help accelerate the latest healthcare innovations from bench to bedside.
The hospital moved from an ‘inadequate’ CQC rating in 2015 to a ‘good’ rating in 2019, with many aspects of the services rated as ‘outstanding’.
In 2020, the hospital’s response to Covid-19 has been the latest challenge. Over 300 staff were redeployed to treat over 1,000 patients and a new bespoke critical care unit was built on the previously dormant 14th and 15th floors in just five weeks to help care for Covid-19 patients.
The response to Covid-19 is an example of how despite the size and complexity of the hospital, it has always managed to respond quickly to the demands of difficult circumstances.
Chief Executive of The Royal London Hospital Jackie Sullivan said: “280 years is a long time and a lot has happened. I very much feel the history and part of something special.
“I am proud to be leading such a fantastic team and will forever be grateful for their agility and dedication during this time. I want to thank all of our staff and partners, past the present, for their commitment to delivering safe and compassionate care to our patients”.
The hospital can’t celebrate with a big event due to the pandemic, but that won’t stop marking the occasion. Staff at the hospital were offered goodies throughout the day, bunting was on display, patients were treated to a special birthday menu and a historical film was released.
Join the hospital as it celebrates via the hospital’s Twitter page (@RoyalLondonHosp) and using the hashtag #RLH280
Interested in joining The Royal London team? View available jobs here.