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

View report page

Bermondsey 1956

Annual report of the Medical Officer of Health for the year 1956

This page requires JavaScript

on the considerable increase in the number of playgrounds for children,
and the praise due for this helpful provision must be shared between
the Borough and the London County Councils.
At this point also, the change in the Borough, as far as offensive
trades is concerned, must be noted. I have always been sorry that the
opportunity of using the Rotherhithe Street area for offensive trades
was not exploited. This street was, at one time, the longest street in
London and a number of "nuisance" trades was centred there. It
was, and still is to a large extent, separated from the rest of the Borough,
running as it does between the river on one side and the Surrey
Commercial Docks on the other and, as the area is mainly an industrial
one, the transfer of" nuisance " trades from other parts of Bermondsey
would have been for the good of the whole Borough. It is certainly
not a popular area with tenants now.
Other changes, as distinct from those such as statistical changes
obvious only to the expert, will be noted by the public in connection
with street markets and public conveniences, which are controlled by
the Public Health Department, dusting and cleansing of streets,
controlled by the Works Department, and the provision of trees in
the streets by the Gardens Department.
I suppose the most noticeable change which has taken place in
my time here has been the fall in the incidence of infectious diseases.
I remember that, in 1922, there were eleven hundred cases of diphtheria;
last year there were none. A similar, though not perhaps so
striking a fall, has been observed in the incidence of many other
infectious diseases in this, and other, districts. We are extremely
grateful for this trend and, although we are able to suggest many
factors which have obviously played a part in producing this result,
it is not possible to attribute the fall to any one predominant factor.
The same trend is observable in tuberculosis and, combined with the
administrative changes which have taken place in the health schemes
of the whole country, it seems to me that the time may have come to
abolish the Dispensary Scheme as devised by Sir Robert Philip and
to transfer consultant clinics to the hospitals where, in my opinion,
that work now properly belongs, leaving the investigation of home
conditions and the provision of accommodation to the local health
Another subject which almost immediately received attention
in 1920 was maternity and child welfare. As was the case with tuberculosis,
the first efforts to deal in a systematic way with this problem
was made by voluntary effort. The voluntary Tuberculosis Dispensary
was first opened in 1911, and I believe there were Health Visitors
employed by voluntary bodies as far back as 1911 but, of course,
real impulse and direction were given to the movement by the
Maternity and Child Welfare Act of 1920. Much good work was
done in the Borough under this act until 1948 when, by the passage
of the National Health Service Act, responsibility was transferred to
the London County Council. While the former act was in force the