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King's College Hospital, Carey Street, Westminster, c.1840.

​King's College Hospital, Carey Street, near the Strand, c.1840.

London’s Hospital Fund Cataloguing Project

During 2014, London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) was awarded a grant from the Wellcome Trust, through its Research Resources in Medical History scheme, to fund a project to catalogue the extensive additional deposits of records of The King’s Fund, formerly King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London. The project began in October with an archivist appointed and based at LMA. Project archivist, Amy Proctor outlines the history of the Fund and gives us an insight into the information she has been uncovering as she surveys nearly 100 linear metres of records.

History

The King’s Fund was established in 1897 when the Prince of Wales invited donations for a charitable fund to help the voluntary hospitals of London. On the accession of the Prince to the throne the charity took the name, ‘King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London’ and in 1907 it became an incorporated charity by Act of Parliament. The founders of the Fund were concerned they should acquire a sizeable capital which would yield a yearly income and could then be distributed in a way which would make a significant impact.

The Fund from the beginning was concerned with the quality of management in the hospitals it supported and also with overall hospital provision in the capital. One of the earliest actions of the Fund was to play a part in the removal of King’s College Hospital from near the Strand to Denmark Hill in South London, an area then chronically short of hospital provision. From 1898 institutions within seven miles of Charing Cross were invited to make applications for grants (this area would later be extended). The Fund did not simply distribute money on request, but established a system whereby any institution making application was subject to a visit by two representatives of the Fund who reported to the distribution committee on such matters as the state of the buildings, staff, the treatment of patients, management of finances and why the grant had been requested. The Fund often attached definite conditions to the grants it gave and in 1906 made grants conditional on the institution adopting the revised Uniform System of Accounts which had been established in the late 1800s to improve methods of hospital accounting.

The Fund took responsibility for cross-hospital services, for example, in the 1920s contributing towards the purchase and distribution of radium to London hospitals and in the 1930s establishing an emergency beds service to assist in the allocation of beds to patients in urgent need across London. The Fund often established committees and working parties to investigate particular matters, including pension schemes for nurses and hospital staff, provision of ambulances, road casualties, and perhaps most famously, hospital beds - a project which led to the redesign of the hospital bed, the new bed being used almost universally.

The establishment of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 caused the Fund to reappraise its work and it began to concentrate on developing good practice. In the 1940s and 1950s it established training colleges for ward sisters, matrons and hospital administrators as well as creating a catering advisory service. As the twentieth century progressed, the Fund further diversified into development projects which aimed to improve the quality of health care. In 1986 it established the King’s Fund Institute to investigate important health policy issues in depth. Today the King’s Fund is an influential organisation in health policy pioneering the development of patient choice in the NHS, of partnerships between health and social care, and of the arts in health.

Archives

The archives have been deposited in various stages since 1963 and currently over half, approximately 98.3 linear metres, remains uncatalogued and therefore inaccessible to researchers. The uncatalogued material consists of administrative and project files, official reports of inspection visits to hospitals, records of grant giving, committee minutes and correspondence. There is an enormous amount of potential material here for researchers into health care provision and hospital services in the UK in the twentieth century which will be being gradually uncovered. Already in the early stages of the project as the records are surveyed, there have been some exciting finds including a large series of grant correspondence files with charitable convalescent homes. Also, a large number of the Fund’s projects have been found to be documented in detail, such as SHARE, a black and ethnic information exchange project and the records of the Centenary Beds Project which revisited the first King Edward’s Hospital Fund bed design. These records will be described and packaged appropriately to ensure their long-term preservation and the catalogue will be made available to researchers by October 2015.

Although we are not able to provide access to the uncatalogued records during the project, you can view the existing catalogue on LMA’s online catalogue under the reference A/KE. For further information about the King’s Fund, please visit its website.

Published:
03 February 2015
Last Modified:
27 September 2018

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