Friday, 14 February 2014

A hospital for the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up

Great Ormond Street Hospital (informally GOSH or Great Ormond Street, formerly the Hospital for Sick Children) is a children's hospital located in the Bloomsbury area of London, and a part of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust.

At the time of the Hospital’s foundation, the population of London had grown hugely in the preceding decades, following the Industrial Revolution and the end of the wars with Napoleon’s France. This growth was not, however, matched by growth in hospital provision for the City, and the few long-established general hospitals, such as St. Bartholomew’s and Guy’s, struggled to cope with the increase in demand. In these circumstances, the hospital care available to the many thousands of children living in poverty in London was minimal. A survey in 1843 revealed that, of some 2,400 patients in all the London hospitals, only 26 were children under 10 with diseases peculiar to that age; of 51,000 people dying that year in the capital 21,000 were children under ten. It was generally assumed that children were “expendable”, and in any case were better off staying with their mothers, even when seriously ill. What little healthcare that was available before Great Ormond Street Hospital opened was largely provided by various Dispensaries for Women and Children, in modern terms a cross between a pharmacy and a hospital outpatients’ department.

Dr Charles West, the principal founder of Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street, was an expert on diseases of women and children. He had trained in medicine at Paris and Bonn, in countries where provision for children’s health was more advanced than in Britain, and where hospitals exclusively for children had long been in existence. In the 1840s, having returned to London, Dr West worked at the Universal Dispensary for Children and Women in Waterloo Road. He was determined to set up England’s first in-patient hospital for children, but failed to persuade the managers of the Dispensary to support his plan. Through his own efforts, and through social contacts made by his fellow doctor, Henry Bence-Jones, a committee was formed in 1850 with support from eminent philanthropists and public health reformers such as Lord Shaftesbury, Baroness Burdett-Coutts and Edwin Chadwick of the Board of Health. By February 1852, sufficient backing had been obtained to open The Hospital for Sick Children at No. 49 Great Ormond Street.

Great Ormond Street Hospital is closely associated with University College London (UCL) and in partnership with the UCL Institute of Child Health, which it is located adjacent to, is the largest centre for research and postgraduate teaching in children’s health in Europe. It is part of both the Great Ormond Street Hospital/UCL Institute of Child Health Biomedical Research Centre and the UCL Partners academic health science centre.

Great Ormond Street Hospital is known internationally for receiving the rights from J. M. Barrie to his play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up in 1929, which have provided significant funding for the institution.

Contrary to popular belief the hospital was not the first specific children's hospital in the World. The National children's Hospital in Dublin was founded over 30 years previously in 1821 but the very first was the Hôpital des Enfants-Malades founded in 1802 on the Rue de Sévres in Paris.

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