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Dreadnought Unit


Merchant seafarers are given priority treatment at the Dreadnought Unit so that they can return to work quickly. Because of the nature of their job, they are not allowed to work if they have certain medical conditions, in case of an emergency whilst at sea.

Our Dreadnought Unit is the continuation of a tradition of special hospital care for seafarers dating from 1821. The Seamen’s Hospital Society originally established a hospital on a ship moored at Greenwich, and in 1870 it came ashore to the banks of the Thames at Greenwich. In 1986 it moved again to St Thomas’ Hospital.

It is not a separate unit in the hospital - patients are treated in whatever ward or facility is best suited to their needs.

Referrals come into the administration office. Prospective patients are sent a form which asks whether their treatment is urgent or routine, and when the patient is available for an appointment. This is very important as seafarers are often away at sea and are unable to cancel appointments. Due to the distances travelled by seafarers from home and from ships around the world, accommodation is also arranged for them. 

Who is eligible for treatment?

 The following are eligible for elective priority treatment at the Dreadnought Unit:

  • active seafarers, pilots and tugboat men
  • trainee candidates for the Merchant Navy
  • fishing vessel personnel
  • shipping company shore staff essential to the function of the fleet
  • dependants where the illness of the spouse or child (under 18) causes the seafarer grave concern.

The following (but not their dependants) are also eligible to be considered for elective treatment:

  • retired seafarers
  • union officials.

The Dreadnought admin can be contacted by email

Information for visitors

In response to coronavirus, we are currently restricting the visiting times and the number of visitors per patient. Please visit the visiting patients page for more information.