A history of Stoke Mandeville Hospital and the National Spinal Injuries Centre

Stoke Mandeville Hospital and the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) are renowned worldwide for the successful treatment of spinal injuries and as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement. The emergence of the spinal centre was a direct result of the setting up of the Emergency Medical Services in the Second World War to treat injured soldiers. This paper documents the history of the hospital as a whole and the influence of the NSIC in particular on the overall facilities leading up to and after the building of the modern NSIC in 1983.

The specialty of spinal injuries in the UK

At the outset of the Second World War, spinal units were established in the UK, but they were little more than hospitals where patients with spinal injuries were received. The treatment was deplorable, with patients typically suffering from pressure sores and renal sepsis. In the south of England, a spinal unit was not established until the appointment in 1944 of Ludwig Guttmann, who was trained in rehabilitation, neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry and research. Guttmann devoted himself single-handedly to the care of his patients, turning and catheterising them himself.