The Royal Free Hospital (also known simply as the Royal Free) is a major teaching hospital in Hampstead, London. The hospital is part of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, which is a member of the UCL Partners academic health science centre and also runs services at Barnet Hospital, Chase Farm Hospital and a number of other sites.
It was rated 'excellent' for quality of services and 'good' for quality of financial management by the Healthcare Commission in 2009.〔(Healthcare Commission - Annual Health Check rating for 2008/09 - Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust )〕
The nearest London Underground station is Belsize Park, and the hospital is situated very near Hampstead Heath station on the London Overground.
The Royal Free Hospital was founded in 1828 by the surgeon William Marsden to provide, as its name indicates, free care to those of little means. It is said that one evening, Marsden found a young girl lying on the steps of St. Andrew's Church, Holborn, dying from disease and hunger and sought help for her from one of the nearby hospitals. However, none would take the girl in and she died two days later. After this experience Marsden set up a small dispensary at 16 Greville Street, Holborn, called the London General Institution for the Gratuitous Care of Malignant Diseases. A royal charter was granted by Queen Victoria in 1837 after a cholera epidemic in which the hospital had extended care to many victims. As demand for in-patient facilities increased, it was constituted as the Royal Free Hospital, and moved to Gray's Inn Road in the 1840s.〔Lynne A. Amidon, ''Illustrated History of the Royal Free Hospital'' (London: Special Trustees of the Royal Free Hospital, 1996)〕 Another building in Liverpool Road, Islington, was used as an isolation hospital. Marsden also founded the Free Cancer Hospital in Westminster in 1851, renamed The Royal Marsden Hospital in 1954. In 1974 the Royal Free facilities at Islington and Holborn were combined and moved to the current 12-storey cruciform tower block, built on the site of the former Hampstead General Hospital and the North Western Fever Hospital.
The hospital houses part of the UCL Medical School and its associated medical research facilities. The Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, since August 1998 a part of the UCL Medical School, was the first to train female doctors in the United Kingdom; the Royal Free Hospital was the first teaching hospital in London to admit women for training.
Significant advances in the fields of liver medicine (hepatology) and transplantation; renal disease and dialysis; haematology and haemophilia have been made at the Royal Free, and the trust now treats all patients needing dialysis in north and central London. The professorial department of liver medicine is recognised as one of the leading research units of its type in the world. It was founded by Professor Dame Sheila Sherlock.
The Royal Free was the first hospital in the UK to appoint a consultant in HIV medicine, in 1989. Dr. Margaret Johnson, a specialist in thoracic medicine, built the Royal Free Centre for HIV Medicine, which is at the forefront of treatment of HIV-AIDS. The out-patients' centre was opened in 1992 by the actor Sir Ian McKellen and is named after the actor Ian Charleson. Its garden, where patients can relax, was opened by Elton John in 2003.
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