Atkinson Morley Hospital – a brief history of St George’s neurosciences services

Between 1869 and 2003, St George’s world class neurology, neurosurgery and neurosciences services were based at Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon.

Noted as one of the most advanced brain surgery centres in the world, Atkinson Morley Hospital was the site of the very first use of computed tomography (CT) on a human being on 1 October 1971 by Sir Godfrey Hounsfield.  A non-invasive medical imaging method, used to create 3D images of human organs, CT scanning was hailed as the biggest medical breakthrough since the stethoscope and the discovery of x-rays.  In 1979, Sir Godfrey was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Sir Godfrey Hounsfield and Dr Jamie Ambrose, inventors of the CT scanner

Sir Godfrey Hounsfield and Dr Jamie Ambrose, inventors of the CT scanner

Atkinson Morley Hospital was opened in 1869 following a donation to St George’s Hospital by wealthy hotelier and landowner Mr Atkinson Morley, a former medical student at St George’s Hospital, Hyde Park Corner.

Mr Morley made a donation of £100,000 “for receiving, maintaining, and generally assisting convalescent poor patients”. The hospital used the donation to purchase 28 acres of land from the Duke of Wellington’s old estate in Wimbledon and constructed the hospital in the Second Empire style.

The hospital remained a convalescent home until 1939. During World War II, when the Bolingbroke and St. George’s Hospitals acted as emergency hospitals for war casualties, the Neurosurgery Unit was established at Atkinson Morley Hospital by the neurosurgeon Sir Wylie McKissock. As the regional neurosciences unit for south west London, the hospital even had its own helicopter landing facility.

In the 1960s The Wolfson Neurorehabilitation Centre was built next door to Atkinson Morley Hospital. The Wolfson provided specialist rehabilitation and outpatient services to patients from across south west London and Surrey until 2012, when services moved into new homes at the nearby Queen Mary’s and St George’s Hospitals.

Atkinson Morley Hospital closed in 2003, when services moved to the purpose built state-of-the-art Atkinson Morley Wing at St George’s Hospital.