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What is a hospital?

A hospital is an institution offering the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. It will usually have facilities for inpatients.

Hospitals can offer a wide range of services (a general hospital) or be specialised. The Royal Marsden Hospital in London, for example, specialises in cancer treatment and research while Papworth Hospital, near Cambridge, specialises in the heart and lungs.

Most general hospitals will offer accident and emergency (A&E), maternity, surgery, care for the elderly and outpatient services.

Hospitals in England generally fall into one of two categories: those run by the NHS and those that are independent, for example those run by private companies or charities.

Types of hospital

NHS hospitals

  • provide their services free at point of delivery
  • generally have links with the local community
  • usually come under the local health trust.

Independent hospitals

  • often charge for the services they provide
  • may be run by private companies or charities.

Our new approach to inspecting hospitals

Last year we set out plans for a new approach to regulating, inspecting and monitoring hospitals. You can read about our new approach in detail in our provider handbooks.