London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Bermondsey 1915

Report on the sanitary condition of the Borough of Bermondsey for the year 1915

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During the year 1915, it became increasingly evident that the
work of the Health Visitors, partly owing to war conditions,
became more important, and towards the end of the year the Council
were urged to appoint additional Health Visitors making four in all.
The question was considered at various Committee meetings. At
the latter part of the year and the beginning of 1916, impetus was
given to the movement by the generosity of an anonymous donor,
who promised to pay the salary of an additional Health Visitor
for two years, provided the Council did the same. The Committee,
however, felt that in the present uncertainty of the money market
produced by the war, coupled with the warning of the Local Government
Board to all Sanitary Authorities to be strictly economical,
decided to postpone the matter for six months. This letter from
the Board was rather unfortunate since the Board had just been
urging the advisabilty of paying great attention to infantile
mortality and had written us strongly urging the appointment of
additional Health Visitors. The Committee was saddled also at
the same time with a fresh and unknown expense in the notification
of Measles Order, which, no doubt, contributed to the Committee's
I trust that, in the near future, the Committee will re-consider
this decision for I am of opinion that we are badly under-staffed.
The present Health Visitors feel that they cannot overtake the work,
and from their point of view it is most unsatisfactory and unpleasant
to constantly feel that one's work is only partially done and that one
is unable even to see the good result of one's work.
The following table summarises the work done by the Health
Visitors. I am afraid, however, that there is a tendency among
Sanitary Authorities to lay too much stress on numbers, both as
regards Health Visitors and Sanitary Inspectors. Numbers are
very useful, but if great stress is laid on numbers, it is quite easy
for those to be increased by spending a little less time on individual
visits and by rushing about. The result is, especially with regard
to Health Visitors, that the work is much less efficiently done and