Summon up in your mind a picture of a world class medical area, and it probably doesn’t look quite like this. You probably imagine a sprawling modernist campus, all glass and aluminium, imposing but characterless, set in an anonymous out-of-town location.
It’s unlikely that your mental picture would consist of a grid of period townhouses, including genuine masterpieces of Georgian architecture, situated in the middle of an international city and surrounded by the bustle of daily life.
But while the Harley Street Medical Area may not be the archetype of a world class medical enclave, a world class medical enclave is precisely what it is. By any measure, the medical services it offers. compete with, and often surpass, those of any purpose-built clinical centre anywhere on the planet.
The Harley Street Medical Area’s history as a centre of medical excellence dates back as far as the 19th century, but in recent years, that rich heritage has been overtaken as its defining characteristic by the sheer modernity of its tenants. Behind those period facades stand 21st century facilities, functioning right at the cutting edge of modern medicine.
Over the past decade, the area’s long established and justifiably famous tenants—The London Clinic (including its more recent London Clinic Cancer Centre, which houses some of the world’s most advanced radiology equipment), HCA, King Edward VII’s Hospital, Moorfields—have been joined by some exceptional new peers: Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals’ brand new diagnostics and outpatients centre; the flagship hospital of eye specialists Optegra; Isokinetic’s Fifa-accredited rehabilitation centre; the multi-specialist London Claremont Clinic. And there are more to come: a proton beam therapy unit is awaiting planning, as is a London base for Germany’s highly regarded Schoen Clinic.
As well as these hospitals and clinics, the Medical Area is home to hundreds of small practices and independent clinicians, between them covering just about every conceivable medical specialism, as well as dentistry, psychiatry and a whole host of other related sectors. If a patient needs referring to a different specialist, or if a second or further opinion is required, this can often be found in the immediate vicinity.
Inevitably, given the size of the medical community, other related services have been drawn to the Medical Area, extending these local networks still further. Physiotherapists, nutritionists, fitness trainers and pharmacists, for example, are all close at hand when their expertise is required.
But perhaps the most unusual aspect of the Medical Area is that it isn’t an isolated enclave, filled with nothing but doctors. Surrounding the medical building, and even sharing the same streets with them, are restaurants and cafes, shops and cultural institutions. There are numerous hotels, some of which have developed close ties with the hospitals and clinic. There are quiet parks and attractive streets. For patients undergoing treatment, or for the family and friends supporting them, the Harley Street Medical Area provides an environment that is both comfortable and laden with welcome distractions.
Its Marylebone location also provides an unrivalled level of accessibility. Sitting right in the heart of a truly global city, it is connected not just with the rest of the UK but with the entire world. It is a short journey from several airports including, in Gatwick and Heathrow, two of the busiest and best served in Europe. It is closely tied in to London’s enormous public transport network and is just a short hop from numerous mainline stations including the Eurostar terminals at St Pancras station. With Crossrail due to open on the doorstep in 2018, this is an area unrivalled in its transport connections.
In recent years, the local landlord, the Howard de Walden Estate, has been working to bring clinicians together to offer a more cohesive service. A new medical concierge business has been commissioned to provide a comprehensive service, assisting with every aspect of a patient’s needs. A Harley Street Medical Area website, currently in the pipeline, will provide comprehensive listings, while a publication, Prognosis, is launching imminently, offering insights from the area’s medical experts. What was previously a disparate group of medical practitioners, hospitals, clinics and support services is now actively collaborating to make the Harley Street Medical Area an even more attractive destination for patients seeking expert medical care. It certainly doesn’t look like any other medical area anywhere else in the world, and its ability to compete on a global basis should not be underestimated.