St Thomas’ Hospital, opposite Parliament and a spit and a fart from Number 10, has once again proved itself geographically well placed in its dealing appositely with the PM’s viral infection. Once upon a time responsibilities for Whitehall and nearby Buckingham Palace’s health would have been shared with St George’s. This was a very fine hospital at Hyde Park Corner and – once being knocked off my bike nearby – I was treated in casualty (A&E) there most expeditiously.
Here royalty with sudden nose bleeds and minor injuries would also have been treated. But in Maggie’s time it was decided to move the whole kit and caboodle south to Tooting.
Not so far also from Number 10 was another hospital of choice called Charing Cross. It nestled near Trafalgar Square and was in the 1980s also moved, to Hammersmith in West London. And of course also nearby was Westminster Hospital, now united into Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and placed down where Fulham and Chelsea meet.
Such an enormous movement of hospitals, and also such an enormous movement of health, with Parliament once so surrounded by health providers it was spoilt for choice. But at least now outer parts of London can have the hospitals that once crowded the Parliamentary estate and royal residences.
I knew St Thomas’ previous to its current fame in nursing Boris through Covid-19. A former revolutionary comrade of mine was a top doctor there and it was he who alerted me to the need for more prevention. Standing in A&E one day he said, in his best Marxist manner, that 70 per cent of people there – and using the wards of the hospital – were first of all victims of poverty. That their poverty put them on a road that through poor nurturing, poor food and bad and dangerous employment meant they would eventually become patients.
It was an eye-opener for me and set me on the road of trying to push the NHS towards more prevention. But of course more recently I have realised that our health service has had to mop up the old and the poor like a giant social sponge; hence its almost total 80 per cent occupancy before the virus hit. And the enormous pressure it is bravely responding to as I write.