Celebrating 200 years of Charing Cross Hospital

As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charing Cross Hospital this month, Dr Frances Bowen, interim divisional director for medicine, explains what Charing Cross means to her and invites you to come along to find out more about the hospital’s past and future at our open day on Tuesday 30 October.

I joined Charing Cross Hospital in 2000. My first role was as a consultant in chest medicine and general medicine, and I spent my time evenly between Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals.

Following two periods of maternity leave for the births of my sons, I moved full time to Charing Cross as they were enrolled in the hospital’s day nursery. Through the nursery I have met lots of wonderful people from all different backgrounds and disciplines. My two children still remember all of the staff who looked after them by name and for me that really highlights the family feel that the nursery creates. It is instrumental in getting staff back into work and it’s something we should be very proud of.

In 2008, the five hospitals that now make up Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust merged and at that point I became chief of service for respiratory medicine and infection. That’s where my management journey really started. I’ve taken on different leadership roles, looking after a range of specialties, while also continuing my clinical work in acute medicine and chest medicine. Then in July 2018 I took up the role of interim divisional director for medicine, and that’s where I am today.

Changes and constants

Like all hospitals, there have been many changes over the years. We’ve seen increases and reductions in bed numbers and, from 2015, there have been plans to develop Charing Cross as a ‘local hospital’ as part of a north west London programme of service change. More recently, continuing increases in demand for our services have meant those plans have not been taken forward and we have been investing in and growing our services.

What has never changed though is the atmosphere and the ethos. Charing Cross remains an extremely friendly and welcoming place to work and, from a people perspective, there are many colleagues who are still here who joined at the same time as I did or who were already working here when I arrived.

One of the things I love about the hospital is our ‘stairwell culture’. Many staff take the stairs, so the central stairwell has become a place where you see many of your colleagues, and it gives you the opportunity to have those great face-to-face conversations which are so important.

If you asked my two boys, now 15 and 13, what they remember about Charing Cross and what’s changed, they will tell you it’s the big fish tank! There was a very large tank where Costa is now, with the most incredible fish, but these were all given a very good home in Scotland when it was decided they would no longer live at the hospital.

The people here make my job incredibly enjoyable. Open communication and kindness really shines through here. The uncertainty about the future of the hospital has been quite tough for many staff and volunteers but they are resilient and know that the care, compassion and quality of everything they do is what makes us such a strong unit.

Past and present

The 200th anniversary is a huge milestone for anyone who with a connection to Charing Cross Hospital. Its influence in healthcare throughout its entire existence is remarkable. Founded in 1818 by Dr Benjamin Golding, the hospital was originally based on the Strand. The hospital moved to its present home on the Fulham Palace Road in 1973 and has been a local institution ever since.

I think anyone who visits our new ‘history zone’, near to the Chapel, and sees the amazing bed plaques on the wall bequeathed from the Strand will get a sense of the hospital’s rich history. We also have a great ‘Hospitals that make history’ touring exhibition in the main foyer currently and we have plans to put that on permanent display in the history zone.

Whilst being an important part of the wider Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust family, Charing Cross also continues to have its own identity.

Looking ahead

We’ve invested significantly in the hospital over the past two years, with thanks in large part to Imperial Health Charity. This has included redeveloping outpatient clinics, expanding Riverside theatres, creating a new acute medical facility and redeveloping the emergency department to make a bigger, safer space for our patients.

The Trust has recently been awarded £5 million for additional beds to improve our urgent and emergency care pathways, especially as we head into winter, and some of those extra beds will be created at Charing Cross. We have also recently installed a new, state-of the-art radiotherapy machine and will be installing another next year. More improvements will follow.

I am especially proud of one of the hospital’s latest developments: the new dementia friendly anniversary garden established by Imperial Health Charity. I was honoured to attend the opening of the garden, which is a fantastic outdoor space for our patients with dementia, complete with dementia friendly colours and sounds. It will be a great asset to the hospital and to our dementia team for years to come.

I hope you’ll join me at our open day to mark our 200th anniversary and see for yourselves how much is happening at Charing Cross Hospital and how you can get involved.

Come along to our open day on Tuesday 30 October and join us as we celebrate Charing Cross Hospital’s 200th birthday

Learn more about our new dementia friendly anniversary garden.

Download our brochure to learn more about the history of Charing Cross Hospital.