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King’s Fund

Poster issued by the King's Fund, 1922.

Poster issued by the King's Fund, 1922.

Credits:Wellcome Library, London.

Though charity in Victorian Britain far exceeded poor relief, many charities did not coordinate their activities. As a result, there was much duplication of services. The public soon began to regard this as wasteful. Consequently, some societies developed to coordinate fundraising efforts and prevent both the wastage of funds and state intervention. The King’s Fund was one of the best-known organisations which aimed to rationalise hospital charity in this period.

Founded in January 1897 and named after the Prince of Wales, the fund avoided direct competition with other hospital funds. It collected £227,562 in its first year. By 1901, however, interest from deposits and capital was still only £6000. With Queen Victoria’s death in that year, the fund’s prospects changed. A coronation appeal was started and it was renamed the King’s Fund. More than £600,000 was raised.

In order to receive support from the fund, hospitals had to open beds to poor patients. From 1906, the entire grant was to go towards helping the sick poor, rather than funding research. Over the years, London Hospital received the majority of funding. By 1917 total grants reached £2¼ million, or 6% of hospital income. The fund was particularly generous to those hospitals which moved to poorly served communities.

Many argued hospitals should be run like businesses. The King’s Fund introduced a uniform system of accounting and issued annual statistical report from 1903. Membership increased rapidly, though the fund suffered with Edward VIII’s abdication.

Since the introduction of the NHS, the King’s Fund has not been obliged to support the voluntary hospitals of London. It now funds many experimental projects and carries out research into health-related fields, including hospital catering, medical record-keeping and convalescent homes.

 

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Bibliography

F K Prochaska, Philanthropy and the Hospitals of London: the King’s Fund, 1897-1990 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992)

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