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Hemel Hempstead General Hospital

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Alternative name(s):
  • Hemel Hempstead General Hospital (West Herts Wing) (Later known as)
  • West Hertfordshire Infirmary (Formerly known as)
  • West Hertfordshire Hospital (Formerly known as)
Date: 1826-1951
History: The West Hertfordshire Hospital was founded in 1826 and originally established in a row of converted cottages at Piccotts End in 1827 by Sir Astley Paston Cooper, a surgeon of King George IV. By 1831 the hospital had outgrown the original buildings and Sir John Serbright provided £13,000 for a new establishment at Marlowes, which was opened in 1832 and is now known as Cheere House. Subscription of £1 entitled the subscriber to nominate an out-patient, one of £5 to nominate an in-patient and a donation of £50 or more entitled the benefactor to become a life member. In 1877 Princess Mary of Teck opened new hospital buildings at Hillfield Road, with room for fifty patients and seven nurses. In 1899 the hospital installed X-Ray facilities, claiming to be amongst the first in England to do so. From 1890 nurses were able to train on the premises and in 1919 its function as a general nurse training school was approved. In 1927 the Marnham Maternity Ward was opened. By 1928 there were 102 beds for patients.

The Hospital relied on charitable donations, and before 1948, fund raising and contributory insurance schemes comprised its main source of income. By 1910 the Hospital was in great financial difficulty which was somewhat eased by the 1911 National Health Insurance Act. This resulted in the compulsory insurance of workers who earned less than £160 per annum, which entitled the worker to free medical treatment from the GP with whom he was registered. By early 1913, most of Hertfordshire's doctors had agreed to serve on the 'Panel' and this relieved pressure on the out-patient department of the hospital. In 1932 the hospital introduced a contributory scheme such that participants could receive in-patient treatment and maintenance and free out-patient treatment.

With the creation of the National Health Service in 1948, West Hertfordshire Hospital merged with St Paul's Hospital to become Hemel Hempstead General Hospital. The site at Hillfield Road now became knwon as Hemel Hempstead General Hospital (West Herts Wing). In 1949 there were beds for 169 patients, and it remained close to that figure for the next 25 years or so, with 160 beds in 1972. In 1974 it passed to the North West Hertfordshire District Health Authority and the North West Thames Regional Health Authority. In 1989 the St Paul's Wing site was closed and its services transferred to the Hillfield Road site, which became known as Hemel Hempstead General Hospital. At that time it had 293 beds, which had become 387 in number by 1995. In 1994 it became one of the hospitals and services taken up by the St Albans and Hemel Hempstead NHS Trust, which in 2004 became part of the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
  • Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
Functions, occupations and activities: Health and social care > Hospitals
History Links: timeline pdf document
Historical context: The first voluntary hospitals came into being in England to provide care for the poor after the Reformation, taking over the role previously performed by the monastic orders. Voluntary hospitals were privately endowed, often by a local landowner, but subsequently maintained by subscriptions and donations. Anyone was open to subscribe, and then became known as a governor or subscriber which entitled them to certain privileges. A Board of Management was appointed from the governors to administer the daily running of the hospital, usually with the help of a House Committee and a Finance Committee. Many local organizations adopted the hospitals and held fetes, garden parties and other fund raising events to raise money for the maintenance of the hospital and especially for the purchase of equipment. Many of the hospitals had contributory schemes which entitled a member of the scheme to medical treatment. The voluntary hospitals, unlike the large sprawling workhouse infirmaries, were usually small, containing as few as six or seven beds in some cases, and served the "deserving" poor of the immediate area. Voluntary hospitals would not generally admit the destitute or "undeserving" poor. In the early days of the voluntary hospitals the medical staff were usually unpaid, but it was considered to be prestigious to be appointed to the medical staff, who often maintained themselves by private practice. The nursing staff were on the whole either "Nightingale" nurses or had been trained at other nursing establishments. Voluntary hospitals could chose which patients to admit (then referring all other cases to the workhouse), and if their beds were full they could refuse to admit patients altogether. They did not take the chronic infirm, infectious cases or long term sick patients. Most of the voluntary hositals started life in cottages or other buildings, which were either bought by the governors or left by the benefactor. As the hospitals became more financially stable and more prestigious they were able to finance larger, purpose built buildings, often in the pavilion style with high ceilings and lofty corridors. On July 5th 1948 control of the voluntary hospitals passed from the Board of Management and therefore the local community to the Minister of Health.
References: Hosprec database; Burdetts and Hospital Yearbooks 1901-1999; West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS website
Name authority reference: GB/NNAF/C77714 (Former ISAAR ref: GB/NNAF/O26735 )
  Description Held by Reference Further information
1826-1936: accounts, corresp, legal papers etc
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
NRA 18363 Grover
1826-1950: minute books, financial records, annual reports, patient registers incl military cases, medical records and misc items
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
NRA 11973 Hertfordshire
1893-1951: minutes 1893-97, reports 1935, visiting book 1938-65 and estimates 1951
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
See Annual Return 2006

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Related record creators
  Record creator Description of relationship Dates Category of relationship
The West Hertfordshire Hospital was managed by the North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board
West Hertfordshire Hospital came under the auspices of the North West Thames Regional Health Authority.
The two hospitals merged in 1948.
The West Hertfordshire Hospital was managed by the West Herts Group Hospital Management Committee