The history of health care is complex, confusing, and contested. It involves more than just the creation of hospitals and dispensaries, infirmaries, and health centers. There are also royal colleges, trades unions, medical schools, nurses’ homes, coroners’ courts, nursing sisterhoods, ambulance stations, patients’ organizations, and medical missions.
Usually, to enhance our understanding we sit and read books, or, nowadays, surf the Internet. But it’s more fun to go out, visit the buildings where events unfolded and transport yourself back in time. The story of how health care has developed from medieval times to the present day is told through seven walks in central London, each with a key theme, such as:
The book takes as much interest in one of the six ambulance stations build in 1915 by the London County Council as it does in the grandest teaching hospital. Although some important buildings have been destroyed, and others are threatened, many remain. The walks aim to help preserve our legacy as, increasingly, former health care buildings are converted into hotels, offices, homes, and shops. Awareness of their original functions is in danger of being lost. The book also aims to increase our understanding of the current challenges we face in trying to improve health care. For there are many lessons to be learnt from the past.
Packed full of curious and surprising facts about medicine and beautifully illustrated with maps, photographs, and images, this is the perfect guide book for anyone with a passion for urban walks, the history of London, and, of course, medicine.
The history of health care
Walk 1: Church, Crown and City - Covent Garden (4.8 km; 2.5 hours)
Walk 2: The lost hospitals of St Luke's - St Luke's (3.7 km; 1.5 hours)
Walk 3: A cradle of reform - St Pancras & Bloomsbury (3.5 km; 2 hours)
Walk 4: The challenging isle - Soho (2.9 km; 1.5 hours)
Walk 5: Merge or move - Fitzrovia (4.6 km; 2 hours)
Walk 6: From trades to professions - Marylebone (4.5 km; 2 hours)
Walk 7: 'Merrie Islington' to 'the contagion of numbers' - Finsbury (2.6 km 1.5 hours) & Islington (3.8 km; 2 hours)
Motoring tour: No city is an island - north and east Kent (160 miles; 3 days by car)
Nick Black is professor of health services research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (University of London). He is one of the leading academics in the UK on health services, having published several books and over 200 articles in medical journals. He is the founding co-editor of the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, a leading international journal, and edited a series of 20 books on understanding public health. He advises the Department of Health on quality assessment and chairs the National Advisory Group for Clinical Audit & Enquiries. Apart from health care policy, his interests include history, architecture, cooking, and Arsenal. He is married and lives in north London.
"An anatomy upon the historical body of London"
"With teasing asides about the scandals and intrigues of London's medical history ... Black reveals little-known aspects of the capital's past in a manner both informative and fun, accessible whether you have a medical background or not. Walks you'll actually want to go on."
—Tom Lamont, Editor, Time Out: London for Londoners
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