A brief history of healthcare provision in London


Hospitals for retired or disabled sailors and soldiers were established at Greenwich and Chelsea, respectively, in the second half of the 17th century.  They were built in a grand style.

Military hospitals in the modern sense of the word did not appear before the 18th century, when the naval hospitals Haslar (1761), near Gosport in Hampshire, and Plymouth (1762) were built.

The Royal Herbert Hospital (1865), built in Woolwich for the army, was one of the first true pavilion-plan hospitals in the country.  Military hospitals, at first treating only wounded and sick servicemen, came eventually to provide care also for their families.  The Queen Alexandra Military Hospital on Millbank (1905) was one of the last general military hospitals to be built in the pavilion style.

Many temporary hutted hospitals were built during WW1 and have not survived.  Colleges, aristocratic townhouses and many large houses and buildings became used as auxiliary military hospitals, e.g.  Holmleigh in Harrow.  Several London hospitals and County Mental Asylums were requisitioned by the War Office and their in-patients discharged or transferred to other hospitals.

Between the wars the Royal Air Force erected purpose-built hospitals outside of London, e.g. at Ely, Cambridgeshire.

During WW2 the Emergency Medical Service was set up to ensure an adequate supply of beds for the expected number of civilian air-raid casualties and wounded servicemen.  As during WW1, many hospitals, as well as large houses, were requisitioned.  Several new military hospitals were also built, especially for the allied forces, e.g. the Canadian Military Hospital in Orpington (which later became Orpington Hospital).

Next subsection:  Auxiliary hospitals during WW1

Next section: Poor Law hospitals

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Piggott J 1990  Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Crops. Barnsley, Pen & Sword Books Ltd.  

Gruber von Arni E, Searle G  2002  Sub Cruce Candida.  A Celebration of One Hundred Years of Army Nursing. Camberley, Qaranc Association.


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