Simon Baynham, Property Director at The Howard de Walden Estate, says the sheer level of medical excellence found behind its elegant period facades has turned the Harley Street Medical Area into a powerhouse of modern medicine
The Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech shone a spotlight on speech therapist Lionel Logue, who, at his Harley Street consulting rooms, helped George VI overcome his stammer. Dr Logue was also responsible for installing the first artificial voice box in the UK. His patient was John Baynham – my grandfather. From a young age, I was aware of the incredible work that can be done when medics are given the opportunity to innovate and strive for the very best. Now, as the Property Director of the Howard de Walden Estate, which acts as the landlord and steward for the Harley Street Medical Area, my job is to ensure that today’s medical innovators are provided with the tools they need to excel.
Today, some 5,000 medical professionals operate in the Harley Street Medical Area, covering just about every specialism. The area’s rich history is reflected in its worldwide reputation and in the fabric of its buildings. It is a place of curious opposites—modern medicine and centuries’ old architecture—and marrying the two remains a real challenge. As we’ve consistently proven, however, it is a challenge that can be readily met.
For example, the Wimpole Street outpatients and diagnostics facility run by RB&HH Specialist Care facility – the private arm of the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, known globally for its excellence in cardiovascular and respiratory care – is home to some extremely specialist equipment. It is one of only two centres in the UK that offers rubidium cardiac imaging, which dramatically reduces imaging time and patients’ exposure to radiation while increasing diagnostic accuracy. It’s an impressive bit of kit, but installing this machine and other vital equipment into a historic townhouse took serious planning, exceptional problem-solving skills and some extremely talented tradesmen. The reason that the team at RB&HH Specialist Care were prepared to collaborate with us on such a complex redevelopment was their belief that this attractive, generously-proportioned period building would have a positive, calming effect on patients and their families.
That is what medicine is all about, after all – the patients. And that is why we place so much focus on creating pleasant, welcoming atmospheres. Another of our tenants, Fortius, converted 12,500 sq ft of space on Bentinck Street into a world-class orthopaedic surgical facility, keeping a focus squarely on the patient experience. This FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence offers a relaxing environment full of organic forms, warm colours, and ambient lighting design – far removed from the traditional medical facility blueprint. However, style is matched by substance, as beyond the contemporary waiting areas are state-of-the-art operating theatres and high-spec private rooms.
It’s this kind of excellence and innovative thinking that we look for when considering new tenants for our buildings. We have an exacting long-term vision, and proactively work with a group of advisors to identify missing specialisms and then fill that gap with the very best medical professionals. We are currently working on a new hospital, run by HCA, that will provide care and support to children and their families affected by cancer. We’re also delighted that Advanced Oncotherapy and Circle Health’s linear proton beam therapy clinic – a truly ground-breaking facility – is due to open its doors in 2019.
Over the past few years, The Howard de Walden Estate has been working to bring clinicians together to offer a more cohesive service. The analogy we use is that the Harley Street Medical Area is like the world’s biggest and best hospital, filled with doctors of global renown – now we need to ensure that it has a proper front desk and adequate signage. We have brought a medical concierge business to the area to assist with every aspect of a patient’s needs, and we are working with clinics and practitioners to find ways of providing better information and more transparent pricing. We have also committed considerable resources to helping the collective promote its unique offering to overseas patients, who are arriving here in ever-larger numbers.
For patients from all over the world, medical excellence is the Harley Street Medical Area’s primary draw – but it isn’t the only one. 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 planet. 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 buildings, 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 clinics, and plenty of other options for high quality short-term accommodation. 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.
When I first began working with The Howard de Walden Estate, some people expressed the view that Harley Street’s medical component would soon disappear, leaving behind only offices and residential premises. More than 22 years later, it is still here, and is thriving. The sheer level of medical excellence found behind these elegant period facades has turned Harley Street into a powerhouse of modern medicine. But there’s still much to be done, both in breaking down stereotypes and generalisations associated with the area and in maximising its already tremendous offering. With our cutting edge medical care and beautiful urban setting, there really is nowhere else like it in the world.