Our history

Our history in healthcare

Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

The Royal Free Hospital was founded in 1828 to provide free healthcare to those who could not afford medical treatment. The title 'Royal' was granted by Queen Victoria in 1837 in recognition of the hospital's work with cholera patients.

For many years, the Royal Free Hospital was the only hospital in London to offer medical training to women. This began a close association with the London School of Medicine for Women, later renamed the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine.

The Royal Free Hospital moved to its present site in the mid-1970s, bringing together the old Royal Free Hospital in Gray's Inn Road with the Lawn Road, New End and Hampstead General hospitals.

In April 1991 the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust became one of the first NHS trusts established under the provisions of the NHS and Community Care Act 1990. 

On 1 April 2012 the trust was authorised as a foundation trust, under the name Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. 

Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital join our foundation trust

In 2014, Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital joined our foundation trust, bringing further medical expertise and local care to the NHS services we provide. 

Barnet Hospital first provided healthcare in an infirmary in the Barnet Union Workhouse in 1838. Chase Farm Hospital began as a home for pauper children in 1884. 

The hospitals were important to medical treatment during both world wars. Between 1916-18, 6,000 wounded and sick soldiers were given medical care at Barnet Hospital, and during the Second World War, Chase Farm cared for wartime casualties under the emergency medical scheme. In 2004 Chase Farm made European history, by carrying out the first total hip replacement procedure with the patient leaving hospital in just 27 hours. At the time in the UK, the average length of stay following a total hip replacement was 11 days.

Our story

We are proud of the history of each of our hospitals and are committed to the delivery of world class care. The following video is shown to all new staff joining the trust and gives them an insight into life as part of the Royal Free London.


Supporting medical services: organisations affiliated with the Royal Free

We work with a number of bodies in order to provide and extend the benefits of our healthcare. 

Read information on the Royal Free Charity and becoming a hospital volunteer.

Learn about the Royal Free Association, an organisation for former hospital staff and students of the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine.

We also have the Royal Free Hospital Nurses' League. Founded in 1910, it provides contact between members of the League and the Royal Free Hospital. To be eligible for membership you will have completed your training at the Royal Free Hospital School of nursing, or at the affiliated Middlesex University, or have been a member of the Royal Free Hospital staff for two years post-registration, or be nominated for honorary membership by the committee.

Learn about the Royal Free Hospital Nurses' League.