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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Essex

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Your Story: The Forest Group of Hospitals

The first of these, the Buckhurst Hill Village Hospital, was opened in 1866 in two rented rooms. In charge was an elderly domestic who had no medical training. In 1869 this was replaced by a house, still standing, initially having six beds. It was staffed by a nurse resident and a probationer. Patients had to present a letter from a subscriber who, for a guinea, could recommend one in-patient and three out-patients. Fees were charged; those in receipt of relief were not admitted.

In 1889 a second hospital, the Medical Provident Hom, opened in Buckhurst Hill in a converted house. There were two large rooms, each with five beds, a day room and an operating theatre. It was managed by a committee of women. Correspondence in the local press in 1896 drew attention to the rivalry between these hospitals and suggested that they should combine. Thus in 1912, with 21 beds, the Forest Hospital opened, an orchestra playing 17 pieces at the opening ceremony. Beds were increased to 42 and were attended by general practitioners but much surgery was also performed. It acquired an X-ray unit in 1919, a 'Thanksgiving for the Victory of our Arms'. It closed in 1984 under NHS reorganisation.

Harts, a country house in Woodford Green, was chosen in 1920 to be the East Ham Infectious Diseases Hospital, chiefly for the treatment of tuberculosis. Local residents initially opposed such a development. Later it was renamed Harts and dealt more widely with chest diseases. It closed in 1984 despite a local 'Save Harts' campaign.

Words: Dr Eric Dormer MD, FRCP

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