Leeds General Infirmary – 250 years of looking after city’s patients

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It is one of the largest hospitals in Europe, taking in hundreds of thousands of patients and using some of the most advanced healthcare technology available.

But Leeds General Infirmary started in humble surroundings.

Today – to mark the hospital’s 250th anniversary year – the YEP is looking back at the LGI’s journey over the last three centuries, from the day it first opened its doors to patients in Leeds.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT), which runs the LGI, has unveiled a timeline detailing historical moments in the hospital’s history over the decades.

The timeline, funded by the Leeds Hospital Charitable Foundation, will now be displayed along the blue bridge inside the Jubilee wing.

It comes as health chiefs in the city this year revealed ambitious plans to upgrade parts of the LGI.

The plans, which are still subject to detailed national assessments before being given the go-ahead, include a state-of-the-art healthcare building on the site of the LGI’s old nurses home.

There are also proposals to redevelop the city’s Children’s Hospital at the Clarendon Wing, to provide “a dedicated and bespoke child friendly-environment for young patients”.

Julian Hartley, chief executive of LTHT, said: “It is a great privilege to be able to look back over the rich history of the LGI and reflect on the past 250 years.

“Healthcare has come a long way since 1767 when the LGI was a house near Kirkgate market and the hospital was well established when the NHS was founded almost 70 years ago.

“Thanks to our teams there have been some real milestones here in Leeds including the development of modern A&E medicine in 1967 and more recently, the UK’s very first double hand transplant. We look forward to many more as part of our exciting plans for the future.”

The first General Infirmary in Leeds was after it was first set up in a private house in Kirkgate, close to where the stalls of Leeds Market now stand, in 1767.

Originally, it was opened as a hospital “for the relief of the sick and poor”.

In its first year, the hospital cost £469 to run and annual subscriptions totalled just under £305.

Some 361 patients were treated during that year, by staff including four surgeons, an apothecary, a matron and a nurse.

Just four years later, in 1771, the first purpose-built home for the LGI opened close to City Square.

This small 27-bed building then continuously expanded, as the city transformed with the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.

Nearly 100 years later, the hospital’s new site – which still stands on Great George Street today – opened in 1869.

Among the site’s impressive features when it was unveiled was the famed Winter Garden, which was designed on the advice of Florence Nightingale, by renowned architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, the man behind London’s St Pancras Station and Albert Memorial architecture.

In 1940, the LGI’s Brotherton Wing was built, followed closely by the hospital’s Martin Wing, in Calverley Street in 1961.

By 1984, the city’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital was replaced by the Clarendon Wing.

The hospital’s rapid expansion culminated in 1998 when, to mark the 50th anniversary of the formation of the National Health Service, the LGI’s Jubilee Wing opened.

The Jubilee Wing linked up different parts of the LGI and was integral in connecting the hospital during its expansion.

David Welch, chief executive of the Leeds Hospitals Charitable Foundation, which funded the timeline project, said: “Philanthropy has a huge part to play in our fundraising which is why it’s a fantastic opportunity for everyone to reflect on the rich history of philanthropic giving which has made the Leeds General Infirmary the respected icon that it is today.”

Across 2016 and 2017, LTHT treated more than one million people and had over 17,000 members of staff. Its running costs for the last financial year were £1.2bn.

LTHT is planning a series of celebrations until the end of the year to mark the 250th anniversary of the LGI, which also coincides with the NHS’s 70th anniversary.

Medical marvels at the LGI:

Today the hospital leads the way across the UK and in Europe for its advances in medicine and surgery.

The hospital was where the first ever kidney dialysis was performed in the UK in September, 1956, by Frank Parsons.

According to the hospital’s timeline, there then followed a period when only the LGI was providing the service for the whole of the UK.

Patients in need of kidney dialysis were being transferred by train to the hospital in Leeds from across Britain.

And the LGI is continuing to blaze a trail when it comes to surgery.

In 2013, the hospital facilitated the first hand transplant in the UK.

And three years later, Chris King became the first person to have a double-hand transplant at the hospital, now the UK’s specialist centre for the operation, in July 2016.

Get involved with our #ThankYouLGI hashtag

To celebrate the LGI’s milestone, the YEP is asking people to use the #ThankYouLGI hashtag on social media.

You can join in the celebrations, or share a memory or story about the hospital by using the hashtag.

We’ll post the best responses using the #ThankYouLGI hashtag, from Twitter and Facebook, online.

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