Hospitals established by local authorities and charities for the relief of the poor existed long before the NHS was founded. These hospitals adapted, however, to changing circumstances and widened and altered their treatment models within this new medical environment.

The Western General Hospital

One such institution was the Western General Hospital. Since its origins as the Craigleith Poorhouse in 1868 the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh has developed into a world-class centre of expertise and a major teaching hospital at the leading edge of new developments in health care. The history of the hospital is in many respects the history of the Public Health provision of medicinal care in Scotland. It shows how the hospital has continually adapted to meet the changing needs of the community; serving the poor slums of the Pleasance, High Street and Canongate; treating wounded soldiers during the 1914-18 War; caring for the community as a Municipal Hospital; becoming the focus of the Polish Medical School in the Second World War; introducing Specialist Units for oncology, haematology, renal disease, gastroenterology, urology, neurology and endocrinology, with the interesting academic developments which came along with them; the development of the M. R. C. Cytogenetics Unit; and, with its new Trust status, the ambitious plans to redevelop the system to incorporate the new advances in laparoscopic surgery, endoscopic approach to gastroenterology and the development of molecular biology, new treatments for cancer and the care of patients with strokes and other neurological conditions.

Dr Martin Eastwood, who was a Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Western General Hospital, and Reader in Medicine, University of Edinburgh, and Anne Jenkinson have written a history of the hospital. You can read this online here:

History of the Western General Hospital

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