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

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Bermondsey 1956

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

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Borough Council established a Maternity Hostel at 110 Grange Road
but it was eventually closed because it was found to be unnecessary
and excessively costly. As the result of a gift from Dr. Salter M.P.,
the Borough also established a convalescent home for women and
children at Fairby Grange at Fawkham, in Kent. This was a lovely
place and used to be exceedingly popular in the summer months but,
after a number of years, it also had to be closed on somewhat obscure
legal grounds. Two municipal dental clinics, established under the
same act, did magnificent work for many years until they were transferred
under the National Health Service Act 1948, one clinic going
to the Regional Dental Board, and the other to the London County
As a direct result of a lecture given at Guy's Hospital by Dr.
Rollier of Leysin, our Council were very impressed by the results he
had obtained in the treatment with natural sunlight of cases of surgical
tuberculosis, and it was decided to send a number of patients to Leysin
for treatment. The results were very encouraging but this arrangement
was suspended when war broke out in 1939 and it came to an
end when responsibility for the treatment of tuberculosis was transferred
under the National Health Service Act 1948. Simultaneously
with the decision to send patients to Leysin, the Council also decided
to set up a Light Treatment Centre for cases of surgical tuberculosis
and for the treatment of under-weight and ill-nourished children.
This scheme was begun in 1924 in the premises of the Tuberculosis
Dispensary at 108 Grange Road and the council were so pleased with
the results that, after prolonged consideration, it was decided to
replace the old buildings at 108/10 Grange Road by a properly designed
building which was to include a physiotherapy department, a "foot"
clinic, an infant welfare department, dental clinics and an X-ray
department. After the usual number of changes and modifications,
the new building, designated the Public Health Centre, was finally
opened in 1937. It flourished exceedingly and became very popular
with the public. The X-ray department actually carried out a larger
number of examinations per annum than the local general hospital —
I believe it still does—and the quality of the films taken reached a very
high standard indeed. That part of the clinic which seemed to appeal
most to the public, however, was the section devoted to physiotherapy.
This included provision for all forms of electrical treatment, diathermy,
ultra-violet light and radiant heat treatment together with massage
and a great variety of exercises. I think the reason for this somewhat
unexpected popularity may be found in the following three facts :
(i) the whole of the Borough, except for two tiny areas, lies below High
Water Mark and, therefore, most of the houses were inveterately
damp and, consequently, rheumatism in its many forms seemed to be
very prevalent, (ii) the majority of the inhabitants of the Borough work
with their muscles and they often received very great relief from one
or other of the forms of physical treatment available and were able to
get back to work quickly, (iii) there was a popular demand for this
form of treatment at the time, and there was no other place in the
vicinity at which such treatment could be obtained so speedily and
conveniently. Whatever the reason, there is no question about the