East Leeds: History of a hospital - from TB to IVF

Seacroft Hospital, Leeds.
Seacroft Hospital, Leeds.
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Set amid rolling countryside, the rural location for Seacroft Hospital was perfect when it opened in 1904.

During a time when infectious diseases posed a huge threat to health, being able to isolate patients was vital.

On a large, sprawling site, wards could be spread out and patients kept from the rest of the population.

But what was crucial then is now very different, with healthcare having undergone seismic changes.

The oldest parts of Seacroft Hospital no longer contain wards and patients – however other parts of the historic site are now used for some of the most advanced scientific techniques in medicine.

A spokesman for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Seacroft Hospital, said: “The trust has invested in moving services from the larger hospital sites to the most modern parts of the Seacroft Hospital campus, where that makes sense.

“One example is the Leeds Reproductive Medicine Centre, the largest facility of its kind in the NHS, which was previously split between LGI and St James’s before being transferred to purpose-created facilities on the York Road site.”

The hospital was created after the need for more beds for infectious diseases like TB became clear.

When it was opened, Seacroft had beds for 482 patients – including for scarlet fever and diphtheria.

“The unusually large size of the site and its rather curious layout, with ward blocks located well away from each other separated by long corridors, is explained by this past use,” the spokesman said.

Its iconic clock tower was built in 1912 and after the formation of the NHS in 1948, the hospital was developed.

As needs changed over the following decade, the oldest buildings on the site became unsuitable.

“They have been emptied and boarded up to protect them from vandalism until their future use and ownership is determined. A smaller site in the future will mean lower bills and best use of resources,” the spokesman said.

Instead services have been concentrated in modern buildings, while Seacroft has become home to some of the city’s highly regarded services – including in prosthetics and orthotics.

Other prestigious health services are based there too – mental health provider Leeds and York Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust runs the nationally-recognised Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders, along with the regional Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis service.

It is also considering whether to move its Yorkshire Centre for Psychological Medicine to Seacroft – meaning that at more than 100-years-old, the hospital is still playing an important part in healthcare in Leeds.