Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine

The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine illustrates Britain’s long-term positive relationship to alternative medicine. The hospital was founded nearly 170 years ago, and its work in alternative and integrated medicine is carried out under the auspices of the royal family. The hospital’s website describes the turbulent history (246) of this unique project:

The hospital was founded in London in 1849 as a homeopathic hospital. The founder was a Dr. Frederick Foster Hervey Quin, one of the first homeopaths in Britain. Dr. Quin personally knew the founder of homeopathy Hahnemann, and was an important person in his time, as he cared for members of the royal family.

London's homeopathic hospital became more widely acknowledged during the cholera epidemic in 1854, during which it achieved remarkable success. Its good reputation continued to spread and the hospital gained more support and expanded its premises. The most commonly treated diagnoses included tuberculosis, bronchitis, rheumatism, gastric ulcer, and female health problems.

In 1936, the hospital received his Majesty's Patronage from King George VI and subsequently added “royal” to its name. The hospital became part of the National Health Service in 1948 alongside homeopathic hospitals in Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol and Turnbridge Wells as Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health, guaranteed the future of homeopathy within the NHS.

Unfortunately, in 1972, the hospital suffered a devastating loss as an airplane carrying a large group of doctors on their way to the International Homeopathic Congress in Brussels crashed near Heathrow Airport. Sixteen homeopathic hospital specialists died in the tragedy, including the most experienced doctor, Dr. John Raesid. As a result of this loss, the hospital’s position deteriorated dramatically and it even lost its independence. However, the hospital responded by beginning to develop its work in other fields. As a result, it started to offer services in other fields of complementary medicine.

In the early 1990s the hospital regained its independence and began to develop educational programmes and research projects aimed at demonstrating the efficacy of complementary therapy within evidence-based medical practice. In 2002, the hospital joined the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which enabled an even closer collaboration between complementary therapies and conventional medicine.

From 2002 to 2005, the hospital was renovated extensively and was officially reopened by the Prince of Wales on 12 October, 2005. In his speech, the Prince said:

“To read the newspapers, one would think that complementary and conventional medicine are virtually at war, with complementary and alternative medicine in retreat. How refreshing, then, to come to this corner of Bloomsbury, with its unique concentration of world-famous specialist hospitals and medical institutes, to find that the reality on the ground in the NHS is quite different. Instead of hostility, there is collaboration and integration: health professionals with expertise in complementary and conventional medicine are working together freely and enthusiastically, in this splendidly redeveloped building with a single, shared objective: to improve the outcome of treatment for patients.” (247)

The hospital has been expanding since 2007. Under its current name the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, it is expanding the services it offers to patients, and it also develops research and education, as well as informs the public about the possibilities of complementary medicine. (248)

The University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust website describes the hospital as follows:

“The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (RLHIM) is part of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and is Europe’s largest public sector centre for integrated medicine.

The hospital offers a range of therapies which are fully integrated in to the NHS and with conventional medicine.

All therapies are provided by registered health professionals who have additional training in complementary medicine.

With a few exceptions, clinics at RLHIM focus on conditions, or patients, rather than specific therapies. Each clinic offering a range of therapies adapted to the individual needs of the patient. The conditions treated are often complex chronic conditions.

All the doctors at the RLHIM are qualified in conventional medicine and therefore they are able to prescribe and advise on conventional as well as complementary treatment.

Integrated medicine brings together conventional medicine with safe and effective complementary medicine. It emphasises the importance of the doctor patient relationship and the use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve healing and optimal health. At RLHIM patients are active participants in their health care.” (249)