When the Liverpool Women’s Hospital was opened with great fanfare and a visit from Princess Diana in November 1995, it marked the latest chapter in a city which in many ways has pioneered approaches to maternal care over the past two hundred years.
Since then Liverpool Women’s hospital, based on Upper Parliament Street in Toxteth, has led the way in supporting thousands of women each year to deliver babies, as well as providing specialist care for women’s reproductive and other health issues, a lifeline for many in the city.
As the base for the only specialised women’s health foundation trust in the country, Liverpool Women’s Hospital continues to innovate and pioneer today life-saving and life-giving support for many of our city’s families.
In August this year, an £18 million refurbishment of the hospital’s neonatal unit was completed and handed back to the hospital, which is a recognised national ‘centre of excellence’ with work on the front entrance also being recently completed.
The origins of the Women’s Hospital lies over two hundred years ago, when a group of Liverpool ladies set up a charity providing maternal health care in people’s homes in 1796, although this was only for “reputable married women and widows.”
The Ladies Charity, as it was known, went on to establish a lying-in hospital in Brownlow Hill in 1846.
In 1883, the Hospital for Women was opened on Shaw Street and three years later the Mill Road Infirmary, which was formed out of the West Derby Union Workhouse.
By 1895, Upper Warwick Street in Toxteth had become home to the Samaritan Hospital for Women, reflecting a growing interest in providing health services targeted at maternal and neo-natal care.
In 1900 the hospital moved to Upper Parliament Street, not far from where the current Women’s Hospital would be located nearly 100 years later.
Oxford Street became home to the Liverpool Maternity Hospital in 1926, at the time the largest of its kind in the country, and was the birthplace of many of the city’s residents, including John Lennon, who would go on to global musical fame.
In 1932, the Duchess of York at the time opened on Catherine Street the Women’s Hospital, amalgamating the Shaw Street and Upper Parliament Street hospitals for women into one building, which is where it remained until moving to Upper Parliament Street shortly after the Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Trust came into existence in 1994.
The £30 million facility was opened in 1995 by Princess Diana and the trust itself went on to take over the Aintree Centre for Women’s Health, serving communities across Liverpool, Sefton and Knowsley, a move which made it the largest women’s hospital in Europe.
In 2005, the trust was renamed as the Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, the first in Merseyside to received foundation trust status.
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A huge refurbishment of its Reproductive Medical Unit was completed in 2010, which saw the facility becoming one of the most state of the art in Europe, working with couples requiring IVF and other reproductive support.
By 2015, the hospital was under threat, with a forecasted £2.1 million deficit which then Chief Executive Kathryn Thomson said left it “not clear how the Trust could survive as an independent organisation.”
Plans to move the facility to a site in the Royal Liverpool Hospital met with strong opposition and a sustained campaign by the group Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
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In 2017 it was decided instead that a huge refurbishment project would take place at the hospital, revamping the neonatal care unit and other existing facilities, with work on the neonatal unit completed this year, upgrading maternal care in Liverpool for the thousands of babies born under the hospital’s roof every year.