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A brief history

The Beatson has a long and proud history in the care and treatment of cancer patients throughout Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

For more than 150 years, the Beatson and its forbears have been responsible for many international advances and innovations in the treatment of cancer.

Glasgow’s first Glasgow Cancer and Skin Institution opened its doors at 400 St Vincent Street in 1886.

An appeal set up in March 1890 resulted in enough money being collected to open a ten-bed hospital at 168 Hill Street,  Garnethill on October 13 that same year.

Under the directorship of Dr Hugh Murray, the hospital continued to care for patients with cancer and skin conditions until, in 1893, the directors decided to limit its work to cancer patients only.

Dr George Beatson (later Sir George Beatson) became the Director of this new hospital. Sir George was one of the international pioneers in the treatment of breast cancer and one of the founders of the St Andrew’s Ambulance Brigade, which provided all ambulance services in Scotland until 1974.

The following year, the Glasgow Cancer Hospital (the first of its kind in Scotland), was established, together with an outdoor dispensary, at 22 West Graham Street. A domiciliary nursing service was set-up at the same time to care for cancer patients in their own homes.

Dr Beatson’s pioneering decision to set up a domiciliary nursing service caring for patients in their own home was a major innovation in patient care.  It heralded the beginning of a holistic approach to cancer care in Glasgow, which continues today though current outreach services across the West of Scotland.

Following a local appeal in 1896, the Glasgow Cancer Hospital moved to larger premises at 132-138 Hill Street. The new 30-bed hospital was housed within two specially converted buildings, which had provision for the pathological study of cancer and improved accommodation for nursing and domestic staff.

In the following decades, a research department was established within the hospital and the buildings were enlarged and rebuilt to bring the number of beds up to 50.

This research department still exists today and is now known as ‘The Beatson Institute of Cancer Research’ based in Garscube. 

In 1948, after the setting up of the National Health Service, it was decided to change the name of the hospital and, following much discussion, it was changed to the Royal Beatson Memorial Hospital.

Last Updated: 02 December 2019