A brief history of healthcare provision in London


At the outbreak of WW2, with the expectation of massive civilian casualties from imminent air-raids,   Horton Hospital with 2000 beds became a general hospital under the Emergency Medical Service (EMS).  Other mental hospitals provided Emergency Hospital Service (EHS) beds - 548 at Banstead, 116 at Bexley, 268 at Cane Hill, 352 at Claybury, 746 at Friern, 650 at Leavesden, 220 at St Bernard's, 494 at St Lawrence's and 435 at Darenth Park.  The buildings were adapted on a considerable scale to provide operating theatres, X-ray and Physiotherapy Departments.  Bed lifts were installed and the kitchens and laundries extended.  Extensive alterations were carried out to the sanitary arrangements in the wards.

During WW2 ten hospitals had to be evacuated completely because of bomb damage - Fulham Hospital, St George-in-the-East (three times), St Andrew's, St Leonard's, St Matthew's, Mile End Hospital, St Giles', St Peter's (twice), St Pancras' and St Luke's.  This was usually a temporary measure until essential services (gas, water, electricity, telephones, etc) could be restored.  During the war 4456 beds were destroyed by enemy action, 578 of these in mental hospitals.

In June 1944 patients at White Oak Hospital and Goldie Leigh Hospital were evacuated to the Northern Hospital and the North-Eastern Hospital because of the danger of flying bombs.  (In August they were transferred to Lancashire.)  The Downs Hospital for Children closed and the few remaining patients were transferred elsewhere.  On 19th July some 149 rheumatic children and 40 other long-stay medical patients were transferred from Queen Mary's Hospital, Carshalton, to a block of 8 huts at Scotton Bank Sanatorium at Knaresbridge in Yorkshire.  The following week the orthopaedic cases, some 100 of whom were immobilized in casts, on fracture beds or surgical carriages, were sent to the new Dryburn Emergency Hospital in Durham, where 210 beds had been made available.

At the end of July 1944 the LCC decided that all its patients should be evacuated because of the flying bombs.  Transfer began of the acute sick on 3rd August.  By 8th August about 3,000 patients (including some chronically ill and those with tuberculosis) had left.  Between 9th and 28th August 5,000 chronically ill and TB patients were evacuated.  The total number of evacuees was 7,866 (2413 acute, 3629 chronic, 1044 TB and 780 children), sent to 200 hospitals throughout the UK.  However, conditions in one temporary emergency hospital in Yorkshire proved so poor than the patients were brought back to Grove Park Hospital.

Between 1944 and 1945 seven hospitals were closed for repair following damage by flying bombs - St Mary Abbots, Mile End Hospital, Lambeth Hospital, St Olave's, St Francis', St Nicholas' and St Clement's.

At the end of the war the Western Fever Hospital was designated as a special reception hospital and two reception units of 200 beds each (the equivalent of a hospital train) were set up.  Each unit was expected to process 200 patients a week.  By October 1945, some 2,830 patients had been returned to LCC hospitals, 939 to other local authority hospitals and 35 discharged home.  During the period of return, nine LCC hospitals had reopened, but were experiencing severe staff shortages.  By the end of the year about 3,500 LCC patients remained in hospitals outside London (2,000 of whom had been evacuated in 1944 and the rest between 1939-1941).  By June 1948 the number of evacuees had shrunk to 350, 100 of whom did not want to return to London.

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(Author unstated) 1949 The LCC Hospitals.  A Retrospect.  London, LCC.

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