Year of Celebrations to Mark 150th Birthday of Royal Hospital for Sick Children

posted 16 Feb 2010, 05:50 by South Edinburgh Net Admin
This week sees the launch of a year of celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Edinburgh s internationally-renowned Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

What was originally known as the Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children first opened its doors on 15 February 1860, at 7 Lauriston Lane. It provided treatment to children from the poorest backgrounds   who all too often were left to suffer.

A century-and-a-half later, what began as a 20-bed institution with a small dispensary, has blossomed into a centre of excellence offering care and treatment the founders would never have thought possible.

Celebrations begin on Monday 15 February with a special party atmosphere as magicians, clowns and face painters tour the wards to entertain the children.

Staff, patients and families will also be invited to enjoy a slice of birthday cake.

Among the first to offer his birthday congratulations was Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said: "I'm delighted to send my best wishes to the patients, families, staff and friends of the Royal Hospital of Sick Children on this special day.

"The hospital's birthday provides an opportunity to look back at how paediatric care and medicine - and the skills and knowledge of our doctors and nurses - have developed and improved over the last 150 years; from the treatment in the 1860s of diseases such as smallpox and tuberculosis to the specialist surgery and intensive care undertaken today.

"And it is also a chance to look to the future and the completion in 2013 of NHS Lothian's new children's hospital, which will provide the modern facilities and environment for the RHSC to continue its life-saving work and exceptional standards of care for society's most vulnerable patients.

"The past decade has seen record investment in the NHS and ensuring the highest standards of care remains my priority. Best wishes for a great day - and the very best of good fortune for the future. You all thoroughly deserve it."

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon MSP adder her best wishes, she said:
 I would like to send my warmest congratulations to all the staff, patients and their families and supporters of the RHSC for reaching this fantastic milestone.  The hospital has undertaken a massive journey since it opened its doors in 1860 and that journey will continue with the move to Little France in 2013.

 The RHSC has always had strong ambitions and even before it opened for the first time it was planned as a teaching hospital with the aim of promoting the advancement of medical science in relation to childhood diseases.  Today the hospital provides a wide range of specialist services with increased investment in gastroenterology, general surgery, rheumatology cystic fibrosis and children's cancer.  The development of these services will result in quicker access for new patients and consistency of care for chronic patients as well as providing a greater level of support from stronger multi-disciplinary teams of healthcare professionals to support these children and young people.

The RHSC has a special place in the hearts of many Lothian families, bringing hope to thousands of young people.

Dr Charles Winstanley, chair of NHS Lothian, said:  It s wonderful to be celebrating the hospital s 150th birthday   it has achieved so much for so many patients and is recognised for its pioneering work to advance paediatric medicine.

 The RHSC provides the highest standards of care for children and young people from the Lothians and across Scotland.

 From its earliest days the hospital was saving the lives of children who were suffering from the terrible diseases which ravaged the poor and undernourished.

 I believe the founders would be proud of the way we have built on the hospital s original principles, and we are certainly proud of everything that is being achieved by the staff at the RHSC.

 Even better is that this is not simply a story about the past, but about the future too, as we look forward to the creation of a new hospital for children and young people at Little France which will continue to care for Scotland s children throughout the 21st century.

Other activities planned for the year include a summer garden party, birthday card competition and a photography exhibition capturing a year in the life of NHS Lothian's Children's Services.

A new section of the NHS Lothian website has also been developed where people can view the birthday messages for the hospital and its staff and post their own.

Notes to Editors:
About the history of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children
Nurse Rowena Conrad has been researching the history of the hospital. Some key moments, from foundation to the establishment of the NHS, are given below. For a fuller version contact the NHS Lothian Communications.

14 Feb 1859: Dr John Smith, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary writes to The Scotsman appealing for the foundation of a new hospital to relieve  the sufferings of young children amongst the lowest and poorest classes of the population, when afflicted with disease.
The following month a reply appeared in the paper s columns. George Barclay, a businessman made the generous offer of £100 towards the establishment of a children s hospital in Edinburgh.

5 May 1859: The first public meeting to establish the hospital board. It was also agreed that the hospital would become a training school for medical students and nurses   the proposal to teach paediatric medicine was innovative and controversial as it was still regarded by some as simply an extension of the obstetric and gynaecology specialities.

1859: A leaflet outlined the  Fundamental Rules  for the hospital which stated that it would:
○ provide for the   treatment of the children of the poor, during sickness, and to furnish with advice and medicine those who cannot be admitted into the Hospital.
○ promote the advancement of the medical science with reference to the diseases of childhood
○ diffuse among all classes of the community, and chiefly among the poor, a better acquaintance with the management of infants and children during health or illness..

15 Feb 1860: EHSC opens at 7, Lauriston Lane. The directors overcame the objections of local residents, including the Merchant Maiden Hospital School for Girls, who were concerned about their quiet, leafy lane becoming a thoroughfare for sick children and their pauper families. By August 1859 the lease was secured for five years at a cost of £100 per year. The building was swiftly transformed into a hospital comprising 12 inpatient beds, a dispensary, an outpatient consulting room, 8 convalescent beds and limited accommodation for nursing and medical staff.

18 May 1863: In April 1861 Meadowside House, at the foot of Lauriston Lane, came onto the market. It was purchased and turned into the next Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children   the directors proudly described the hospital as commodious and well ventilated, and it comprised: two long wards overlooking the Meadows and accommodating up to 14 inpatients, each with a bathroom, a nurses  room and other conveniences; two fever wards for six patients; a four-bedded ward for special cases; an outpatient dispensary, waiting room, prescribing room, and lecture theatre. The directors and staff were to have their hard work recognised when Queen Victoria bestowed her patronage   the first Children s Hospital in the UK to receive such an honour.

1 Nov 1887: First surgical ward opens under Dr Joseph Bell.

2 Dec 1890: Transfer to Plewlands House following a major outbreak of typhoid.

31 Oct 1895: RHSC opens at Sciennes in a hospital designed by the eminent architect George Washington Browne, with an estimated building cost of £20 000-£23 000. Princess Beatrice performed the opening. Mr Hall Blyth, chairman of the directors, spoke about the history of the hospital and its services, explaining that over 180 000 sick children had received treatment.

War Years: By 1916, 11 members of the medical and surgical staff were away on military service. The staffing deficit required urgent filling, and a new generation of women professionals emerged. Women were welcomed onto the medical team. Dr Jean McLean travelled from Nova Scotia, to take charge of the pathology and bacteriology departments, and she actively encouraged the female medical students to do the work vacated by men.

1920s-1940s: The surgeons were having great success with a low mortality rate for acute abdominal conditions such as appendicitis (only two deaths out of 85 cases). In 1928 the first children s ear, nose and throat ward in the country opened on the second floor of the hospital   Meikleham Ward (ward 6). Two years later a new outpatient clinic commenced for disorders of speech, initially for those with adenoid, cleft palate and other organic maladies.

Dawn of the NHS: By the end of the war in 1945 even the most enthusiastic supporters of voluntary status could see that the system was no longer financially tenable. Huge medical advances had taken place which needed to be accommodated. Services such as radiology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy demanded space and recognition. Child psychiatry had also emerged as a major discipline. There had been a whole raft of discoveries in antibiotics which had revolutionised medical treatment and a mass of new ideas from reducing the possibility of cross-infection and treatment of burns to innovative medical and surgical techniques   all of which had to be introduced to the Sick Kids.

1980s: The hospital continued to expand and to lead the way in many aspects of paediatric medicine. By the 1980s the hospital was again in need of more space and a successful appeal raise the funds to build a new wing. The three floor extension was formally opened in June 1995 and the vacated wards created a new Paediatric Intensive Care unit.

Today the hospital cares for over 100,000 children and young people a year from across Lothian and beyond. It provides a comprehensive range of dedicated children s services including accident and emergency, acute medical and surgical care, specialist surgical and medical care, haematology and oncology, day care and critical care.