St Helen Hospital (later the site of Barnsley District General Hospital - from 2005 known as Barnsley Hospital -) has its origin in the infirmary wards of Barnsley workhouse. Barnsley Poor Law Union was formed in early 1850 but the town workhouse in St Mary's Place remained in use until new, purpose-built premises, designed by Yorkshire architects Henry Lockwood and William Mawson, were built in 1852 in Gawber Road. Additions to the infirmary accommodation were made in 1875 but it was not until 1883 that a large, detached pavilion-plan infirmary was completed, following proposals first mooted in 1868. Management was in the hands of the Board of Guardians until 1930.
Following the Local Government Act of 1929 and the subsequent abolition of the poor law administration in 1930, the infirmary wards passed to the Public Assistance Committee of West Riding County Council, and were then appropriated for use as the town's hospital. It was known as Barnsley Municipal Hospital (on occasion Barnsley Municipal Institution) until 1935. The new name of St Helen Hospital (or St Helen's Hospital) was introduced from that date. In the 1940s the hospital was largely used for the chronic sick, but some major surgery was undertaken as were maternity work and acute and general medical work. The accomodation was spacious, and there was room for further development on the site.
Recommendations on developing the site with the subsequent scaling down of services at Barnsley's Beckett Hospital were put forward from the 1950s and major building work was commenced in a phased approach. From March 1971 the St Helen Hospital premises were superseded by those of the new Barnsley District General Hospital on the same site and, when the new premises were finally completed in 1977, the old workhouse buildings used by the St Helen Hospital were demolished. As soon as the hospital was fully commissioned in April 1977, patients began to be moved in: the chronic sick from the then closed Beckett Hospital, the non-mental patients from Kendray Hospital and others to fill the hospital's 106 surgical beds. Stone from the demolished St Helen Hospital was recovered and used in the landscaping of the area around the main entrance of the new Barnsley District General Hospital.
At the formation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 hospital management had been taken over by the Barnsley Hospital Management Committee of Sheffield Regional Hospital Board.
Restructuring of the NHS in 1974 abolished the Hospital Management Committees and Regional Hospital Boards; the hospital's management thereafter fell to the newly created Barnsley Area Health Authority of Trent Regional Health Authority. In 1982 Barnsley AHA was abolished and its responsibilities were taken over by the new district authority, Barnsley Health Authority. This was in turn reconstituted in 1996 at the time when Trent RHA was replaced by NHS Executive Trent. Further reorganisation in 2002 abolished existing HAs, which were replaced by Strategic HAs: South Yorkshire SHA was formed from the merger of Barnsley HA with three other HAs in South Yorkshire. This merged with two other SHAs in July 2006 to form the Yorkshire and the Humber SHA.
Barnsley District General Hospital gained Trust status in 1993 under Statutory Instrument no 2480, the Barnsley District General Hospital National Health Service Trust (Establishment) Order, 1992. As an acute trust, it provides a whole range of specialist services which are commissioned and funded by Barnsley Primary Care Trust and neighbouring PCTs. In 1999 the hospital was re-accredited as an 'Investor in People' and won a Charter Mark for its Day Care and Endoscopy Unit; it was one of the first hospitals in Britain to appoint to the post of nurse consultant. It gained Foundation Trust status in January 2005 and dropped the 'District General' from it title. Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is accountable to a Governing Council including elected public, patient and staff members. Operationally it is managed by executive and non-executive directors making up the Board of Directors; and it is monitored by Monitor, the independent regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts.
The hospital is currently (2006) a 450-bed associate teaching and research hospital affiliated to the University of Sheffield.