Harley Street is known for being the prestigious healthcare capital of central London, famous for its iconic client base, high-end private healthcare and innovative technology. But most people are unaware of the street’s history and origin of its reputation.

In 1719, Edward Harley, the 2nd Earl of Oxford, inherited part of Marylebone from his marriage with a wealthy heiress. The couple planned to turn this land into a set of buildings, which led to the naming of the new Harley Street. Due to the good housing quality and proximity to the new transport of various newly-built tube stations (Baker Street station and New Road- later renamed Marylebone) many doctors started to move their practices to the area. In 1850-60, eleven doctors had relocated to Harley Street; by 1863, there were thirty-six, and the figures continued to grow.

The quality of the healthcare became known as exceptional and the central location attracted more and more patients from all areas of London. In addition, the Women’s Hospital (Establishment of Invalid Gentlewomen) on 90 Harley Street was renamed as the Florence Nightingale Hospital (for Gentlewomen) after her death- adding to Harley Street‘s unique prestige and growing reputation for recognised healthcare professionals such as Nightingale. 

Despite the creation of the first public healthcare system, the National Health Service, in 1948, Harley Street’s reputation for quality healthcare remained unchanged, and wealthy patients  were still prepared to pay for premium service as well as the status symbol of “going private”. After years of chronic underinvestment in the NHS, access to quick and excellent healthcare has once again become a privilege of the well-off or at least well-insured. Rich tourists, celebrities and even members of the royal family prefer the discrete care of Harley Street specialists.

Today, Harley Street and its surrounding area continue to maintain a high-end reputation, thanks to glamorous decor and famous doctors, providing an experience of luxury in addition to the medical treatment. Hospital rooms resemble those from famous hotels in London’s Mayfair.

 “You have to think of the patient’s perspective,” said Dr Omid Sobhani, who has his own dental clinic at 107 Harley Street. Dr Sobhani started his work as a dentist at number 102 in 2002, and expanded his “elite patient base,” over twenty years in the industry. He welcomes clients on the first floor of a sleek Georgian townhouse with imposing columns and intricate millwork. “I spent a lot of money on decorating the room but never spent a penny on advertising,” he said. A lot of Harley Street’s prestigious clientele find their favoured clinics through word of mouth, but the quality and careful attention to detail of the services makes them stay.

The clinics and doctors on Harley Street might only be accessible to a small section of the population. But they offer unmatched expertise and treatments honed by many years of experience in high-end private healthcare.