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The history of Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow

Northwick Park Hospital, located in our very own borough of Harrow, has been a significant part of the community for over 50 years now.

The hospital has a long and fascinating history, beginning with its commission by the North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board in the late 1960s. The hospital was designed by the British architect John Weeks and built by Trollope & Colls. The hospital’s unique design was largely inspired by British obsolescence studies, which emphasized the need for flexibility to withstand unpredictable changes over time.

The design of the hospital was such that it had a fixed internal street system, referred to as “an indeterminate architecture” with “no final plan” to allow it to grow and change over time. The architects hoped that this flexible design would help the hospital to cope with the unpredictable effects of obsolescence.

The hospital was officially opened by her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on 10 October 1970 and takes its name from Northwick Park, which is located next to it.

Since its inception, Northwick Park Hospital has been at the forefront of healthcare innovation, with several notable achievements over the years. One of the most significant of these achievements was the move of St Mark’s Hospital to a wing of the hospital in 1994 that was previously occupied by the Medical Research Council. The move helped to improve patient care by providing access to a wider range of healthcare services.

The history of Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow Harrow Online
Her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II opening Northwick Park Hospital. Credit: London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust

In the late 1990s, Northwick Park Hospital made headlines for an unusual reason. It became home to “Jeeves,” the UK’s first-ever robot nurse, which worked at the hospital for six months in 1996-1997 until it “failed” its probation period. Although Jeeves was not a success, the hospital’s willingness to experiment with innovative technology reflected its commitment to improving patient care through the latest advances in healthcare.

The hospital has also been home to some notable patients over the years. General Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, was a patient at Northwick Park Hospital in January 2000 while fighting extradition.

Northwick Park Hospital has also played a role in several movies and TV shows. In the 1976 film The Omen, the external scene when Katherine’s body falls from a window and crashes into a parked ambulance was filmed at Northwick Park Hospital.

The hospital also features in the seventh series of ITV’s Prime Suspect, as well as in the Channel 4 British sitcom Green Wing. In episode 6, series 1 of Fawlty Towers (“The Germans”), Sybil Fawlty is in Northwick Park Hospital for ingrown toenail surgery. Basil later joins her after he gets a concussion during the fire drill.

Despite its storied past, Northwick Park Hospital has always remained focused on its primary mission: providing top-quality healthcare to its patients. The hospital has continually adapted to changes in healthcare delivery and technology to remain at the forefront of medical innovation. Today, it remains a leading institution in the UK’s healthcare system, dedicated to providing compassionate care and the latest medical treatments to its patients.

Over the years, Northwick Park Hospital has grown and evolved to meet the needs of the communities it serves. The hospital’s continued commitment to innovation and adaptation has helped it to remain a vital part of the healthcare system in the UK.

The history of Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow Harrow Online
Northwick Park Hospital A&E Department was featured in a TV show filmed for ITV.

Simon Le Bon, the lead singer of Duran Duran, worked as a theatre porter at the hospital before becoming a famous musician. The hospital also made headlines for being the site of the first-ever trial of an artificial heart, which took place in 1986.

More recently, Northwick Park has continued to make strides in healthcare and expand its services. In June 2022, the hospital took on a new role as a filming location for a reality TV show about the daily lives of its A&E staff. This show, titled “Emergency Nurses”, aired on ITV and offered a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges and rewards of working in one of the busiest and most high-pressure departments of the hospital.

But the hospital’s most significant recent developments have been in the expansion and improvement of its medical services. In July 2022, a new breast service was launched to cover North West London, including Harrow. The service offers women a convenient and efficient way to be tested and treated for breast conditions, often in a single visit. The service has been widely welcomed for its focus on providing comprehensive and compassionate care to women in the local community.

Another significant development at Northwick Park Hospital was the opening of a new paediatric short-stay hospital ward in November 2022. The ward, which was opened by the Mayor of Harrow, Cllr Janet Mote, provides high-quality care to children who require short-term hospital stays. The ward is staffed by a team of skilled and experienced paediatric nurses and doctors, who work closely with families to ensure that children receive the best possible care and support.

The hospital is managed by the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, one of the largest integrated healthcare trusts in the UK, providing a wide range of healthcare services to people in and around northwest London.

The Trust operates several hospitals, including Northwick Park Hospital, Ealing Hospital, and Central Middlesex Hospital, and is also involved in research, teaching, and training.