St Bartholomew’s, the UK’s oldest working hospital, has today opened its doors to the public for the first in-person View Day since the pandemic began in a tradition which has endured for at least 471 years.
Dating back to King Henry VIII, the traditional purpose of View Day was to connect the community with the work of the hospital, including a formal inspection of its patients, property and services. Back then, patients were walked through the city streets so that citizens might see them and make donations towards their care.
In modern times, View Day is an opportunity for City residents and the wider East London community which the NHS hospital proudly serves, to hear about its vital work and how staff plan to mark St Bartholomew’s 900th anniversary in 2023.
Guests can join tours of the hospital, including the North Wing featuring the magnificent Great Hall and Hogarth staircase. Built in the 1700s, the North Wing is the focus of a multi-million pound restoration project lead by the charity Barts Heritage. There will also be entertainment in the hospital square and stalls run by organisations who work across the hospital campus, followed by an evening service at the historic Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great which was founded in the same year.
Held on the second Wednesday in May every year, View Day comes just a few months before the hospital celebrates its 900th birthday in 2023. To mark this incredible milestone, an ambitious fundraising campaign – called Barts900 – has been launched.
Barts Charity, the hospital’s charity partner, aims to raise £30 million to build two state-of-the-art healthcare facilities – a dedicated centre for breast surgery at St Bartholomew’s and a clinical research facility at The Royal London Hospital (also part of the Barts NHS Health Trust). These will transform care for millions of Londoners, whilst boosting the hospital’s reputation as a centre of excellence.
The Barts900 campaign, which brings together the past, present and future of this iconic institution, will unite the entire Barts Family, including Barts Health NHS Trust, Barts Charity, Barts Heritage and St Bartholomew’s the Great Church, to mark this first-of-its-kind milestone for a UK hospital. More events and celebrations will be announced as the anniversary year approaches.
St Bartholomew’s Hospital chief executive Professor Charles Knight OBE said: “After two tough years battling Covid, it is wonderful to invite the public back. View Day has always been about connecting the hospital to our community, and we are celebrating this unique relationship again today. To welcome people back on the eve of our 900th birthday makes it all the more special.”
Nickie Aiken, MP for Cities of London and Westminster said: “I’m delighted to attend St Bartholomew’s first in person View day since the start of the pandemic. It is an honour to meet and thank the hardworking staff who have worked tirelessly during the difficult Covid period. Barts plays a huge part within its community and I look forward to celebrating its 900th anniversary next year.”