From Strength To Strength


L-J Andrew explores how the Harley Street Medical Area gained its world-leading reputation and how it intends to build on it 

The Harley Street Medical Area (HSMA) from the outside at least, appears to have changed very little since its renown as a hub for private healthcare first began to build, over a century ago. But behind the grand Georgian and Victorian facades of its many period buildings, the HSMA’s evolution has continued at a relentless pace.   

The Howard de Walden Estate, in its role as the area’s landlord and steward, has spent the past two decades gradually ramping up a substantial development programme designed to create a portfolio of world-class healthcare facilities. In many cases, this has meant enlarging individual buildings or linking buildings together, working behind those distinctive period facades. The result is the creation of 21st century facilities, capable of meeting the demands of modern healthcare, providing a frictionless patient experience and accommodating large, highly sophisticated equipment. 

In tandem, Howard de Walden sought out healthcare providers at the very top of their respective fields to work within these buildings. This pursuit of excellence has given the area an increasingly international bent, with the likes of Mayo Clinic Healthcare, HCA and Cleveland Clinic from the USA and Isokinetic from Italy, establishing a presence in the HSMA, alongside some of the UK’s most impressive operators. Established private healthcare providers such as Phoenix Hospital Group, The London Clinic and King Edward VII’s Hospital have been joined by the private patient units of some of London’s leading NHS trusts: Guy’s and St. Thomas’, Moorfields Eye Hospital and The Royal Marsden. 

Throughout this process of expansion, Howard de Walden has very deliberately sought to diversify the range of specialisms provided by the HSMA’s hospitals and clinics. Some of the more prominent specialisms now include cancer services, ophthalmology, urology, fertility, sports medicine and specialised dentistry. Mental health is another major focus, recently bolstered by the arrival from the US of the pioneering All Points North clinic. But with so many clinicians clustered here, working in facilities ranging from individual consulting rooms to full-scale hospitals, the offering is unique.  

This complex ecosystem has also drawn in other related services, from GPs to physiotherapists and nutritionists. There is a mature healthcare infrastructure operating under a collective brand that is known and trusted around the world. If people want to see the best practitioners in almost any field, they know they can head to Harley Street. 

The HSMA is now at an inflection point in its development. The major benefits of the area’s location – in the middle of Marylebone, right in the heart of London – are its international accessibility, its unique atmosphere and aesthetics and the lifestyle appeal to patients and their families of the local hotels, restaurants, shops and parks. The only real downside to this central location is that space is necessarily at a premium. Following the recent wave of major redevelopments, there is now little immediate potential for, large-scale buildings to be added to the portfolio. As a result, The Howard de Walden Estate is looking to complement the HSMA further, attracting services and enablers that don’t require the scale of development demanded by a hospital or a large clinic. 

Prominent among these is life sciences – the intersection between healthcare and research. A thriving life sciences sector requires two things: universities and research institutes in which to formulate ideas, and hospitals in which to test and refine them. The Harley Street Medical Area has unrivalled proximity to both and the potential to build bridges between them.  

Imperial College is just to the west, UCL to the east, King’s Health Partners to the south and the Academy of Medical Sciences right in the middle of the estate. Clinics and hospitals are lined up, side by side. Several organisations such as the Sarah Cannon Institute and Re:Cognition Health are already running clinical trials in the HSMA, but there’s now a plan in place to accommodate other dedicated research and data facilities that can help strengthen this vital and innovative sector.  

In the coming years, the historic facades of the HSMA’s buildings still won’t change, beyond the occasional repair work needed to keep them gleaming. Inside them, though, nothing ever stands still. 

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