We celebrated the 300th anniversary of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital today, with a special commemorative service at Westminster Abbey, attended by past and current staff, patients, volunteers, supporters, MPs and other NHS dignitaries.

The historic service recognised the pioneering forefathers who set up Westminster Hospital in 1719, the first hospital in the world funded by charitable giving, which continued to grow and become Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in 1993. The service included readings by past and current staff, alumni from Westminster Medical School and patients and supporters of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, including Alexander Hoare – a direct descendant of Mr Henry Hoare, who founded Westminster Hospital in 1719 with a charitable donation of £10.

Throughout its history, the hospital has had a number of distinguished medical students and staff including Hale Thompson who in 1847 performed the first operation under general anaesthetic at the hospital. The renowned physician John Snow studied and worked at the hospital and is best known for his discovery in the 1854 cholera epidemic that the disease was water borne. Lord Lister was the surgeon responsible for developing the antiseptic technique. Sir Clement Price-Thomas was one of the pioneers of thoracic surgery and famously operated on King George VI within Buckingham Palace in 1951. In 1981, Professor Brian Gazzard diagnosed one of Europe’s first cases of AIDS at Westminster Hospital.

Alongside the Trust, we continue to build upon the legacy and the pioneering vision of the forefathers of 300 years ago to deliver exceptional patient care and patient experience in a world-class clinical environment.  Charitable support continues to be as integral today as it has been throughout the hospital’s 300 year history. One example is our Critical Care Campaign, the biggest campaign we have ever undertaken, to redevelop and expand the hospital’s adult and neonatal intensive care units. We are thrilled to announce that we have now reached our £12.5 million target towards the £25 million project, in just two years.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, led the Abbey service. During his Address, he said: “As we mark the three-hundred-year history of Westminster Hospital, and its continuing story as part of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, we honour the men and women who have served over the years and those who continue to serve there in our own day. Visiting the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital a few months ago, it became clear to me was that the nature of the hospital’s physical structure and the care given there, conduce to an experience for patients that goes beyond immediate physical health needs. There is no doubt that the work and ministry of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is a great force for good and a powerful example, and so highly worthy of this celebration.”

Lesley Watts, CEO of the Trust, said: “Today, we celebrate our long history and ongoing pioneering approach to delivering exceptional patient care. We are proud to have been at the forefront of innovation with a long list of other hospital ‘firsts’ in emergency care, brain tumour extraction, breast cancer chemotherapy, HIV diagnosis and anaesthetics, to name but a few. As we recognise the past, we also look forward to continuing to deliver first class patient care through sector-leading innovation.”

A Distinguished Heritage

Mr Henry Hoare and four friends founded the original Westminster Hospital in 1719, and the hospital continued to grow and have several different locations before closing in 1992 to reopen as the new Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in 1993, combining services from Westminster Hospital along with five other London hospitals.

The renowned Westminster Medical School was founded in 1834 by the notable surgeon George Guthrie and provided over 160 years of medical education, with its legacy preserved and perpetuated today at Imperial College School of Medicine, at Imperial College London.

The hospital has a rich history including remaining operational throughout both World Wars, including several bombing attacks during the Blitz with miraculously no fatalities. The hospital once again found itself at the forefront of caring for victims of the IRA bombings in the Capital in the 1980s. In more recent times, the now Chelsea and Westminster Hospital provided life-saving care following the 2005 terrorist attacks, the Westminster Bridge and London Bridge attacks in 2017 and treated patients following the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

The hospital has received Royal support over its 300-years with Royal patrons and support dating back to a donation in 1721 by George, Prince of Wales, followed by King William and Queen Adelaide becoming patrons in 1830, along with Queen Victoria. King George VI was also a patron and opened the fifth Westminster Hospital in 1939. In more recent times, Queen Elizabeth II opened the new hospital in 1993 and the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in 2015 to open the new Children’s Hospital.

To celebrate and honour this remarkable history, we have installed a heritage timeline and permanent public exhibition at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Thanks to support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this exhibition includes artefacts from the hospital archives, oral accounts and memories from past staff and a variety of film footage and photographs documenting the hospital’s history.