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Our heritage

United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust was formed in October 1991 as a 'first wave' NHS trust from the former Bristol and District Health Authority. In June 2008 the Trust achieved Foundation Trust status and changed its name to University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.   This page documents the history of the hospitals which form the Trust today.     

WhoBristol Royal Infirmary

The oldest part of our estate, the Bristol Royal Infirmary's Old Building, dates from 1737. The building houses a number of wards among the oldest clinical environments still in use in the country. The Infirmary was founded with the pledges of 78 Bristol citizens who each gave between two and six guineas, to be used 'to benefit the poor sick'.

From the day it opened its doors to outpatients on 20 May 1737, the Infirmary provided medical training - apprentices to the resident general practitioner, known as the Apothecary, shortly followed by surgical apprentices. Teaching remains one of our three core values today (along with care and research). Thirty-four outpatients were admitted, under the care of four physicians and two surgeons.

The Infirmary received its royal title from Queen Victoria in 1850. As its use grew, the hospital needed more space by the turn of the 20th century. The Trustees at the time asked Sir George White, a prominent Bristolian and transport entrepreneur, to spear-head a public appeal. The money raised, boosted by a donation from Sir George himself, enabled the King Edward Building to open in June 1912. The Queen's Building, which houses the majority of wards, was opened by the present Queen in 1973. The old building will close in 2014/15 when new ward accommodation is completed adjacent to the Queen's Building.

Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

The origins of the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children can be traced to 1866 when a house in Royal Fort Road, Clifton, was set aside for "sick children and for the outdoor treatment of women". The hospital was established by Liberal politician Mark Whitwell, who laid down the principle that any child, no matter how poor, would be admitted provided there was room.

Within 20 years, the hospital was treating 900 women and 2,000 children annually. The hospital moved to a new site on St Michael's Hill in 1885, providing 88 beds and cots and seven beds for women. The hospital was granted its Royal status by Queen Victoria in 1897.

The hospital survived bomb damage during the Bristol Blitz to become incorporated into the newly-formed National Health Service in 1948. By the end of the last century, the building had become outdated, with advances in technology and rising demand for services. A major public fund-raising campaign was launched to build a purpose-built, exciting and child-friendly new building. The new hospital, adjacent to the BRI, was opened by HRH Prince Charles in 2001. A dynamic arts programme continues to enhance the environment and help young patients' recovery.

Bristol Eye Hospital

Dr William Henry Goldwyer founded what was to become Bristol Eye Hospital when he opened "The Institution for the Cure of Disease of the Eye Amongst the Poor" in a house in Lower Maudlin Street in 1808. In 1839, neighbouring properties were bought to allow expansion and by 1898 more adjoining buildings had been bought and demolished as the hospital continued to grow.

A new building was completed in 1935 at a cost of more than £47,000. That was in turn demolished in 1982 to make way for the present hospital, which opened four years later.

A £1.9m refurbishment to expand and develop Retinal Services, the Clinical Research Unit and develop a paediatric outpatients department was undertook in 2010 when the BEH celebrated its 200th year. The development was completed early 2011.

Bristol Homeopathic Hospital

The roots of the hospital can be traced back to 1852 when a Doctor Black began dispensing from premises on The Triangle, Clifton. The service developed during the next 69 years, culminating in the commissioning in 1921 of a new hospital in the grounds of Cotham House.

Bristol Homeopathic Hospital continued to provide a full range of services until 1986, when inpatient facilities were transferred to the Bristol Eye Hospital. A purpose-built hospital opened in 1994 next to Cotham House.

Bristol General Hospital

There has been a hospital in Guinea Street, Redcliffe since 1832, but it was not until 26 years later that the General was to open on the site. The new hospital cost £28,000, with much of the funding coming from local workers, who gave a penny a week towards building and running costs. Their efforts provided 100 beds and 20 nurses. Two new wings were added in the 20 years before the First World War to provide medical and maternity wards and a dental department. They brought the number of beds to 150. The General joined with the Bristol Royal Infirmary in 1938 to become the Bristol Royal Hospital.

The Bristol General Hospital will close in 2012 when the planned South Bristol Community Hospital opens and the care of the elderly and rehabilitation services currently provided at the General transfer to the new hospital.

Bristol Haematology & Oncology Centre

The Oncology Centre, formerly the Radiotherapy Centre, opened in 1971. Haematology Services were centralised at the centre in the 1990s. Before the centre opened, the radiotherapy department was based at Bristol General Hospital. However, the advent of cobalt radiation treatment in the early 1960s and the resulting increase in patients highlighted the need for a purpose built centre. The present site was chosen because of easy access to the Bristol Royal Infirmary and the Children's Hospital, then based on St Michael's Hill.

University of Bristol Dental Hospital

The University of Bristol Dental Hospital exists side by side with the University of Bristol Dental School, which has been training dental surgeons since 1906 and professionals complementary to dentistry since 1972.

An £18m expansion and refurbishment project, which included improvements to the main entrance to facilitate access for those with disabilities was completed in 2009 and enabled the number of dental undergraduates to be increased by 50% from 50 to 75 per year.

A major revision of the undergraduate curriculum led to a new and innovative programme being introduced in October 2006. The aim is to introduce students to clinical practice in their second year and to deliver a modern teaching programme.

St Michael's Hospital

The origins of St Michael's Hospital can be traced to the purchase of a house in Alfred Place, Kingsdown in 1865 for "the rescue of young girls who have gone astray". The home, which was run by the Bristol Female Mission Society, moved to Southwell House in nearby Southwell Street six years later but it was not until 1894 that the "lying-in" hospital was opened there.

Bristol Maternity Hospital was opened on the site in 1914. In 1950, the hospital, which now consisted of Southwell House, neighbouring Carlton House and the Nurses' Home, moved to Queen Victoria House, Redland.

Maternity services relocated again when the current St Michael's building opened in 1972. In September 2003, a birthing suite, promoting as natural, positive and normal a labour as possible for low risk births, and the Lavender bereavement suite opened following major refurbishment.