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'Sick, aged and infirm': adults in the new Birmingham workhouse, 1852-1912

Ritch, Alistair Edward Sutherland (2010)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

This study has explored the role of a large urban workhouse and its separate infirmary in Birmingham in the provision of indoor medical care for adult paupers between 1852 and 1912. Due to the difficulty in distinguishing between the medical and social care of older people, it has examined the provision for all older inmates. Birmingham guardians were forward thinking in appointing resident medical officers and paid nurses earlier than other unions, but retrograde by continuing to apply the workhouse test to sick patients longer than others. Workhouse medical officers in Birmingham worked long hours, provided care for many more patients than doctors in voluntary hospitals, and stayed in post for an average of four and a half years. Nevertheless, some strove to provide high standards of treatment. Patient narratives have been identified, showing that positive experiences of medical care did occur. Despite being the largest group of adult inmates, older people were relatively neglected compared with able-bodied inmates until the later part of the nineteenth century, when better standards of living were introduced. The development of the infirmary into an acute hospital created conflict between the two institutions and resulted in the workhouse’s role being limited to the care of patients with chronic conditions.

Type of Work:M.Phil. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Reinarz, Jonathan
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Medical & Dental Sciences
Department:School of Health and Population Sciences, History of Medicine Unit
Subjects:R Medicine (General)
D204 Modern History
HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
DA Great Britain
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:846
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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