The early days

In 1735 the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) was the first voluntary hospital to be established in England outside London. King Edward Building

The cost of running the infirmary was paid for with annual donations from a group of wealthy and influential Bristol citizens. They saw it as their moral duty to ensure everyone had access to free healthcare.

Philanthropy continued for over 200 years. Citizens from across the city felt a responsibility for their hospitals with some holding Sunday collections at church and Saturday collections in their workplaces.

Even after the introduction of the NHS in 1948, Bristol continued its proud tradition of charitable support over the decades that followed.

Above & Beyond is formed UH Bristol NHS

On 1st April 1974, Above & Beyond began life as 'The Special Trustees' with Charles Clarke as its first Chairman. The charity was set up as UH Bristol's official charity to hold the hospital’s charitable funds.

Here are some of our highlights:


  • Research into the effect of anaesthetic on patients with high blood pressure and how best to support them during surgery.
  • New accommodation is provided for hospital staff at Yatton and St Michael’s Hill.
  • A joint venture with the WRVS means a new buffet bar opens in the BRI.
  • A fundraising lottery is launched in association with the 1980 Grand National – legendary winner Red Rum visits Bristol to help promote it.
  • A library service is developed for patients and staff.
  • We sponsor the Bristol Illuminated Carnival in 1980 and raise £6,000 for the hospitals.


  • Improved facilities are provided for the department of cardiology and cardiac surgery helping them to treat more patients.
  • Staff lounges are introduced at the BRI.
  • The new Bristol Eye Hospital building opens its doors in 1986.
  • A CT Scanner is provided for the BRI.
  • The BRI refurbished entrance is opened in 1992.
  • The charity relocates to the newly restored Abbot’s House. The original foundations are said to have their origins in the 17th century and it’s thought to have been a resting place for pilgrims on their way from Glastonbury to Canterbury.


  • Bristol Workways is set up by the charity to provide employment and training opportunities for people recovering from long periods of treatment.
  • The charity provides £750,000 towards the upgrading and refurbishment of the central delivery suite at St Michael’s Hospital.
  • The £1m charity-funded Bristol Medical Simulation Centre is opened for the training of hospital staff. The unit is a world leader in its field.
  • £900,000 funds a cardiac catheter machine for the BRI to help save more lives of critically ill heart patients.
  • The charity provides initial funding and support for the fundraising appeal to develop the children’s hospital. The appeal, now called The Grand Appeal, is still raising funds for the children’s hospital today.
  • Televisions for patients on wards are provided to help alleviate boredom and stress for patients experiencing long stays in hospitals.
  • Transport incubators mean critically ill babies from the south-west region can be safely transported to world class facilities here in Bristol.


  • In 2001, a touch screen information system is introduced at the BHOC for patients and visitors.
  • Creation of the Balloon Corridor in 2002, the BRI link corridor, which has been redecorated and features hot air balloons over the Bristol skyline.
  • We fund the development of laboratories at the BHOC to enable clinical research for new cancer treatments.
  • Funding of an innovative diagnostic system at Bristol Eye Hospital enables patients to be seen miles away via a telecoms system. The first medical video conference takes place on 12 June 1997 between consultants in Bristol and the Tun Huseein Onn National Eye Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
  • An ultrasound scanner and microwave endometrial ablation (MEA) treatments are provided at St Michael’s Hospital. MEA reduces the number of women requiring hysterectomies.


  • In 2005, the charity starts pro-actively fundraising and raising awareness of its work and changes its name to Above & Beyond.
  • Above & Beyond’s first major fundraising appeal raises £150,000 to establish a one-stop gynaecology clinic at St Michael’s Hospital. it includes a zip-wire challenge over the Avon Gorge and a gala dinner at the SS Great Britain.
  • Further fundraising provides equipment worth £228,000 for a new combined surgical and medical day unit.
  • The Heart of Bristol Appeal is launched in 2006 to raise £800,000 for a new building to house the Bristol Heart Institute (BHI). The award-winning building opened its doors in 2009.
  • In 2009, BHOC, Bristol's 40-year-old cancer hospital, was transformed thanks to the success of our £1.6m CaRE Appeal.
  • In September 2009, Above & Beyond provided funding for the Bright Ideas Competition to encourage innovative ideas from across the hospitals to become a reality for all patients.
  • A grant of £63,000 provided in 2009 to fund the free hospital shuttle bus for the next year, which provides convenient access for those travelling to the hospitals. The shuttle bus is still providing free travel for patients, visitors and staff.


  • A generous legacy funds major refurbishment and development of a new research facility and paediatric unit at Bristol Eye Hospital in 2010.
  • Charity-funded research study into the quality of patient lives following treatment for breast cancer challenges and influences best practice in the UK.
  • Three sophisticated retinal imaging systems are funded at Bristol Eye Hospital to detect defects in new born babies.
  • In 2012, funding begins for the annual Davison Nursing and Midwifery Scholarships to encourage and support nurses at all levels who have a strong idea about developing practice and a passion to improve patient experience. 
  • The General Hospital closes in 2012 and the South Bristol Community Hospital (SBCH) opens with £500,000 of funding from the charity.
  • The Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (BRHC) is given ongoing therapeutic equipment and lots of glitter, glue and toys for the hospital’s Play Centre.
  • Funds are provided for dementia friendly name badges for nursing staff to help patients feel less disorientated.
  • Above & Beyond help to make Christmas easier for those in hospital by providing funds for every single patient to receive a gift worth £5 on Christmas Day. For staff, a cooked breakfast is provided for just £1, so teams can enjoy a meal together.
  • 70 cyclists set off for the first Bristol to Paris Cycle Challenge in 2015, to raise £100k for isolation rooms for Cystic Fibrosis patients in the BRI. Since then over 80 riders set off each year, comprised of corporate teams such as DAC Beechcroft and Thrings Solicitors, hospital staff teams, like the Med-Peddlers and children’s theatre team, and many enthusiastic members of our community, raising over £150k each year.


You can be part of the story of Above & Beyond by supporting Bristol city centre hospitals. Please make a donation, fundraise with your family and friends or leave a gift in your will