Founded 275 years ago through the efforts of Ralph Allen, John Wood, Dr William Oliver and Beau Nash, the Mineral Water Hospital was England's first 'national' hospital, treating those from any part of the country who came to Bath in search of a cure. Since 2005 it has been an NHS Foundation Trust but this measure of independence brought with it an administrative burden described as equivalent to that of a London teaching hospital.
The Hospital provides local Rheumatology services, and also has specialist clinics and services which attract referrals from a national population. Specialist rheumatology clinics include connective tissue disease, ankylosing spondylitis, osteoporosis, and Pagets Disease. The hospital houses the Bath Centre for Pain Services, which provides psychologically-focused treatment for adults, young people and children with chronic pain and is the base for both adult and paediatric services for chronic fatigue syndrome; it hosts the largest regional clinical paediatric team for chronic fatigue syndrome in the UK.
Until the unit's recent closure due to financial pressures, the hospital also had a large brain injury rehabilitation service with separate units for adults, adolescents and children.
As a small, specialist hospital it has built up an international reputation for research and treatment in rheumatology, chronic fatigue, neuro-rehabilitation and pain management.
Why is this hospital important?
Bath's Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases' reputation for excellence, built over the last 250 years, has been shown to be consistently of the highest quality by recent CQC inspections. The RNHRD is the world's and the nation's first, iconic national hospital for the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases.
Patients of the RNHRD, some with over 50 years experience of treatment, and from all over the country, believe that the historic site in the city centre is an essential ingredient in the exceptional quality of their treatment and should continue to serve them as it has on site and covering national as well as regional patients.
Patients believe that the exceptional quality of the care they receive at RNHRD stems from an amalgam of factors:
First from the reputation of the hospital for excellence of care, as a training centre for many of the world's senior practising rheumatologists, and where there is an integration of current research, clinical practice and application through therapy which has been built over many years within a small specialist institution, the birthplace of rheumatology.
Secondly the symbiotic integration of practice and new thinking and the team approach engendered in a small institution provides a sense of identity and purpose that translates into exceptional approaches to treatment that can be identified by patients in comparison with that in other hospitals.
Thirdly there is a sense of pride in the history and uniterrupted purpose of medical practice on this iconic site, that strengthens and influences practice in the same way that it does in other similalrly ancient institutions such as historic schools and universities.
Lastly the RNHRD was the first national hospital to be created and it remains functioning as that within the same buildings with doctors diagnosing and treating the same area of disease for which it was created 250 years ago. This makes it a vital part of our living national heritage and an essential ingredient of Bath's World Heritage City status.