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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popularity of the Clinic nor of the dismay at the change which took
place in 1948. The building still functions in a sort of a way, though
the heart has gone out of it. The Medical Officer of Health was still
retained as Honorary Medical Superintendent but shorn of all control
and, instead of one authority, there were three or four, all of which
had some say in the management of the centre, with much resultant
confusion and lack of co-ordination. In fact, the confusion is such
that, even eight years after the passing of the act, the financial details
of the transfer have not yet been completed and, as yet, there is no
single authority directing the management of the building and the
operation of the services. The disappointment amongst the members
of the Borough Council has, naturally, been intense not so much,
perhaps, at the transfer of functions from their control as at the slow
demise of a living organism which they themselves had originated and
which they saw slowly dying before their eyes simply through lack of
knowledge and lack of interest on the part of the " powers that be "
This result of the National Health Service Act, disastrous so far as
this Borough is concerned, seems to have been due to two factors :
(1) insufficient consideration while the act was in the bill stage, probably
due to the desire of the government of the day to get the bill
on the statute book at once, and (2) lack of understanding of local
circumstances. Anyway, whatever the explanation may be, it is
rather a sad ending to a very great and devoted effort by the Borough
Council and one which was worthy of far more considerate treatment
than it has had.
Another indirect result of Dr. Rollier's lecture on tuberculosis
was the setting up of a Propaganda Section in the Public Health
Department. The Council decided to do this in 1924 and to concentrate,
in the first instance, on trying to secure for the Borough a supply
of tubercle free milk. In this objective they were remarkably sucessfull
and almost every milk seller eventually had a licence to sell tuberculin
tested milk. Naturally, this project developed and we were
soon dealing with almost all aspects of public health. Lectures and
talks were given to all sorts of audiences, both great and small. They
were all illustrated and a good deal of interest was created ; quite
often there was some amusement with hecklers, especially when we
operated in the open air. We made our own slides and films because,
at that time (1924), films on health subjects were not obtainable.
We also had the permission of the London County Council to go into
the schools when asked to do so. In all, a great deal of good work
was done, but it came to an end with the outbreak of war.
During the war, the population of the Borough dropped to less
than fifty thousand and a very large amount of property, both residential
and industrial, was destroyed or badly damaged, and it seems to
be quite clear that, in the future, this Borough will never be more
than a very small one. At the beginning of the century there were
about three hundred local authorities in the London area, each with
its own governing functions. These were reduced to about thirty by
the Metropolis Management Act. By this act, a revolution in the