Obstetrician Marcus Setchell, Surgeon-Gynaecologist to the Queen, was one of the founding consultants of the Portland Hospital and is the only one still delivering babies there.
The hospital, which opened its doors 30 years ago in June 1983, was the brainchild of the late Barry Lewis, a paediatrician who encouraged a group of around 50 obstetricians and paediatricians practicing privately alongside their NHS work to support his idea of a purpose-built independent hospital solely for the care of women and children. It was then, and still is, the only private hospital of its kind in the UK.
In the late 1970s, there were no private maternity or paediatric units in London. Although many large NHS hospitals had private maternity beds, these could only be accessed by doctors from that hospital. Mr Setchell was a consultant at St Bartholomew’s Hospital which had no private beds. The only choice for him and many others was to deliver babies at the now defunct Welbeck and Avenue Clinics; both converted nursing homes which doctors felt were far from safe or satisfactory.
It was the same for paediatrics. Children’s wards were confined to the NHS and private patients had to be treated in adult units.
Mr Setchell was on the Portland’s original planning committee which, together with a team of hospital architects, designers and construction engineers, met once a month to plan what facilities were needed and find a suitable site. Each of the doctors invested £2000 in the project. Two or three years after the Portland opened, the General Medical Council ruled that doctors could not refer to a facility in the private sector in which they had a financial interest unless they declared it to the patient. Most, including Mr Setchell, decided to withdraw their investment, receiving £8 interest!
“The hospital has been reconfigured several times over the years but the quality of the staff and the safety of the patients have always been paramount. It is the excellence of the staff that has made it the success it remains.”
As the only dedicated private women and children’s hospital in the country, The Portland has thrived since those early days attracting royalty and celebrities.
“When we were designing the Portland the most important thing was good, modern, safe facilities with well trained staff. We didn’t want glitzy décor,” says Mr Setchell.
“It was brilliant to have a hospital where you could assure your patients they would be safe and well looked after in a clean and comfortable environment and the Portland has maintained that ethos. That is why I have continued to deliver there.
“The hospital has been reconfigured several times over the years but the quality of the staff and the safety of patients have always been paramount. It is the excellence of the staff that has made it the success it remains.”