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Health & Welfare in Leicester, 1945-1962

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Health & Welfare in Leicester, 1945-1962

Much of the information below came from material held by the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland. In particular, the annual Health Reports are a goldmine of information about the state of Leicester's health.

This PDF is a printable version of this article that includes references - Health & Welfare in Leicester 1945-1962.pdf

All the videos linked to can be seen on the EMOHA YouTube Health & Welfare playlist - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3Rnsga7PXcsxUgOOqSoDLiZlmJyQ-6HD


The Beveridge Report of 1942 paved the way for extensive health and welfare reforms. Beveridge sought to deal with five 'evils' - disease, want, ignorance, squalor, illness. The story of the Welfare State is well told elsewhere and can be read on websites such as the National Archives - http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/cabinetpapers/alevelstudies/1940-origins-welfare-state.htm - and many others. This web page looks at the situation in Leicester.

In his book 'In Sickness & in Health', Clive Harrison writes that in Leicester, before 1948, if you were very ill or needed an operation you went to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, the City General Hospital or Groby Road Hospital. If you were too old or poor to look after yourself you would go to Hillcrest. Countesthorpe Cottage Homes were open for orphans, while expectant mothers went to Bond Street, Westcotes Maternity Home or the City General to have their babies. Before 1948 the doctor, the chemist, the hospital and the midwife all had to be paid, and doctors usually came to the patient. To help with payments, people could subscribe to Friendly Societies (e.g. the Ancient Order of Foresters, the Oddfellows), the Leicester Saturday Hospital Fund, or the Leicester Public Medical Service. At welfare and school clinics, such as Richmond House, nurses would weigh children, dispense dried milk, remove tonsils, cut out verrucas, pull teeth, look for nits or distribute spectacles. While the National Health Insurance Act of 1911 did create a system whereby workers were insured and could register with a doctor ('on the panel'), it didn't include dental, opthalmic (eyes) and hospital treatment or consultant services, which needed special arrangements and costs. Nor did it cover the dependents of insured persons.

With the creation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 all this changed and the state paid for everyone's health care. Health care policies were determined at a national rather than a local level and preventative medicine was being eclipsed by hospital-based curative medicine. In Leicester, the City General, the Isolation Hospital, and Westcotes became part of the Sheffield Regional Health Board. The Home Help service started in 1946, while there were plans for more post-and ante-natal clinics. A new ambulance station was based on Welford Rd. In 1948 the Council took on responsibility for a new mental health service (NHS Act) and for the care of children ‘deprived of a normal home life’ (Children Act, 1948). New clinics were started for partial hearing, eneuresis, minor ailments, audiology, and nutrition. In the 1950s there were innovations in the treatment of diabetes at home and in 1952 the first diabetic health visitor service started.

How much difference did the arrival of the NHS make at hospitals? At the Leicester General Hospital it took a while to make an impact and 'on the face of it, little appeared to have changed. There were no new treatments available, but what was available was accessible by all. The patients saw the same doctors and the hospital looked the same and hadn't moved. The enormous changes of the next quarter century took a while to get going.'

Link to a 1944 film informing the public about plans for the NHS - https://youtu.be/Tz0w-ilhjI4
Link to a 1948 information film about the NHS - https://youtu.be/ebRbHDzG3pg
Link to a BBC documentary about the creation of the NHS - https://youtu.be/-ywP8wjfOx4

Educating the Public

Throughout this period the health services held exhibitions to educate the public in the ways of good health. Campaigns included clean food at home and in the workplace (cafes, restaurants, pubs etc) and the benefits of clean air.

The Home Life Exhibition in 1954 showed the difference between a clean kitchen and an unclean kitchen (including a woman smoking a cigarette!) - The Clean Kitchen 1954.pdf
Link to 1950s film about keeping healthy by drinking milk - https://youtu.be/rwMvtVD-nfs

Photo of health exhibition. Photo of exhibition stand about smog.

A health exhibition at New Walk Museum in 1948.

In 1958, two years after the Clean Air Act of 1956, the Clean Air Exhibition at New Walk Museum included a model showing how smog starts.

'Dr Fosse' was used to advise people on good food hygiene.

Health Provision in 1957

Each year a handbook was produced outlining the health services available in Leicester. This .pdf gives you a flavour of the state of Leicester's health services in 1957 - Selected pages from the Health Services Handbook 1957.pdf

Link to 1948 film, 'Charley's Very Good Health - the National Health' - https://youtu.be/DEIV_GYC9m8?list=PL3Rnsga7PXcsxUgOOqSoDLiZlmJyQ-6HD

Health in 1957

Each year a report on the health of Leicester was published. These reports include descriptions and statistics, and give an excellent insight into the changing health of the City's citizens - Selected health statistics 1957.pdf

Chart showing principal causes of death in 1957.


Tuberculosis (TB), also known as consumption, was a feared disease for many years. One contributor to the book 'Saffron's Health Depended on Wealth' remembered that 'TB was spoken of as cancer is today'. Before effective antibiotics were developed in the 1940s the main treatment was lots of fresh air and many people were treated at a sanitorium, usually Groby Road Hospital.

Link to 1950 information film 'Defeat Tuberculosis' - https://youtu.be/luYsfYaad_s
Link to a history of tuberculosis in the UK - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_tuberculosis

The Emily Fortey School

The Emily Fortey School was established in 1956 for 'handicapped children'. In 2006 it merged with Piper Way School to become West Gate, a school for 4–19 year olds with a range of learning difficulties and disabilities. This extract from the health report of 1956 states the situation at the time the school was started - Emily Fortey School 1956.pdf

Welfare Provision for the Elderly

The 1957 Guide to Welfare Services for Elderly People in Leicester detailed the following services:

  • National Insurance.
  • National Assistance.
  • General Information - Non-contributory pensions, National Assistance, Refund of National Health Service Charge.
  • Health Services - Registration with a doctor, Home Nursing Service, Home Help Service, Public Health Inspection Department.
  • Welfare Services - Provision of Residential Accomodation, Registration of Private Homes, Care and Protection of Property and Payment of Rent, Funerals, Welfare Services for Blind, Deaf and Dumb persons, Welfare Services for Handicapped Persons.
  • Accommodation - City Housing Department, Almshouses and other Housing Accommodation, Residential Accommodation.
  • Other Services - Old People’s Welfare Association, Evergreen Clubs, Holidays at Reduced rates, Chiropody, Meals on Wheels, Tobacco Duty Relief, Fuel ration, Wireless for the Bedridden, Wireless Licences, Cinema Concessions, Matters of Doubt.

Link to 'Charley's March of Time' information film about the National Insurance Act, 1948 - https://youtu.be/DEIV_GYC9m8

The Leicester General Hospital

The Record Office has a photo scrap book compiled at the Leicester General Hospital that covers the post-war years. It contains many photographs and press clippings and it is noticeable that very soon after the end of the Second World War nurses were arriving from India/Pakistan, Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean to receive training.

Photo of the children's ward at the Leicester General Hospital, 1957

Photo of visiting students at the Leicester General Hospital, 1947

Photo of the presentation of a TV set at the Leicester General Hospital, 1958

Photo of gynaecology ward at the Leicester General Hospital, 1957.

The children's ward, 1957.

Visiting students, 1947.

The presentation of a TV set by the Muffin Club of the News of the World newspaper on 6th March 1958.

The gynaecology ward, 1957.

The Towers Hospital

Link to video of the history of the Towers Hospital - https://youtu.be/pIvozSRZA3c

The Leicester Royal Infirmary

Link to history website for the Leicester Royal Infirmary (the Virtual Museum) - http://www.leicestershospitals.nhs.uk/aboutus/virtual-museum/



This project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.


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Last updated: 10/07/2017
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