Clever doctors have helped me avoid a critical health problem. Regular overnight stays at St Thomas’ for treatment could be considered a disadvantage, but I find it both rewarding and fascinating. Passing the small group of patients smoking outside the entrance (not allowed on the premises) reminds me of the need for personal responsibility; fortunately, I’ve been able to to follow doctor’s orders, and I acknowledge that some can’t. Arriving at the clinic, I’m met by so many health professionals, all highly trained and motivated to helping me improve my health. The variety of staff is amazing to observe, as is the organisation, skill and attention to detail. All this is free, my right and my privilege.
The hospital’s history is as absorbing as you want. Named after Sir Thomas Becket, it was probably built shortly after my beloved St Katharine’s in the 12th century, close by in Southwark. It eventually moved to its famous site opposite the Palace of Westminster in 1871. Through the centuries it has pioneered medical practise and been literally at the cutting edge of surgery. Previous collaboration (and competition) with other leading institutions eventually lead to the amalgamation, in 2005, to create King’s College London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals. Florence Nightingale greatly influenced St Thomas’ current design, which included the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. It now houses the Florence Nightingale Museum. Currently, St Thomas’ Hospital employs more than 1500 personnel, has 2.4 million patient contacts annually, with a turnover of £1.5 billion.
The pictures are taken from my room on the third floor Patient’s Hotel. These visits have allowed me to look down at The Thames, the fine gardens and the iconic Mary Seacole Memorial. Looking across to the Palace of Westminster, I have now witnessed Big Ben striking most hours, though currently it is silent. So, as a keen historian, my necessary visits offer a wonderful personal experience, adding to acceptance that we are mortal and, in my case, extremely fortunate.