Why is Harley Street Famous?


Nowadays the very mention of Harley Street inevitably evokes a certain image; it has become a symbol of private medical practices, offering superlative healthcare. Undoubtedly one of the reasons for its considerable fame is its distinction from the National Health Service. Whilst the NHS provides treatment funded by taxes, Harley Street has garnered international renown for its high quality private clinics. Furthermore the unique concentration of hospitals, clinics and over 3000 doctors and specialists in such a relatively small area adds to its prominence.

Why go private?

It may initially seem strange that, when medical services are available for no additional cost to the patient from the NHS, individuals choose to go private. However a survey by MORI (Market & Opinion Research International) indicates that increasing numbers of patients prefer the increased privacy and confidentiality that private clinics and doctors can offer. Many are also convinced by Harley Street’s abundance of state-of-the art technology and equipment which overshadows that provided by the NHS.

Specialisation in Harley Street

Another significant characteristic which makes Harley Street so famous is the preponderance of specialists in operation. Although a few private GPs are available to the patient, the clinics and their employees broadly focus on specific medical issues, such as oncology or laser eye surgery. Such a situation is unparalleled in world medicine and Harley Street consequently projects the image of being able to thoroughly and reliably solve any problem which a patient may bring to it.

Historical Reasons

Its fame also has some historical precedents. Unsurprisingly the location was a major attraction to employees in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Situated in relative propinquity to some of London’s most important railway stations, such as Kings Cross and Paddington, Harley Street was (and still is) highly accessible. Consequently it attracted doctors who would need to stay in their clinics for extended periods of the day without leaving and then be able to commute with ease.

Celebrity Endorsement

Some of the most celebrated doctors and surgeons in history have practiced in Harley Street clinics, including the polymathic Sir Henry Thompson who reached international fame by operating on the King of Brussels to relieve him of kidney stones. Such acts by Harley Street employees helped it on its way to acquiring the reputation it enjoys today. Similarly the modern obsession with celebrities has showered yet more renown on Harley Street as some of the most famous people in the world have elected to use its facilities.

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