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

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St Pancras 1930

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for St. Pancras, Metropolitan Borough]

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Premises, Supervision, etc.
The shelter was completed by August 11th, and was formally oponed by His Worship the
Mayor (Councillor H. E. Capes, J.P.) on August 18th, when representatives of the Borough
Council, H.M. Office of Works and the Sunlight League were present.
The building is of brick, one-storey high, and measures 30 feet in length by 20 feet in
depth. It is divided by folding doors, and each half contains sanitary accommodation and a
shower bath. A number of lockers are provided and pegs for the children's clothing.
The Sunlight League undertook to provide the salary of a competent supervisor from tho
date of opening until the end of September, but the various incidental expenses have been
defrayed by the Borough Council. Miss M. Garnett was selected for the post of Supervisor, and
has carried out her duties with great tact and efficiency. In addition to her nursing qualifications,
Miss Garnett has had experience in sunlight treatment in Switzerland and in artificial
light treatment in this country.
The Centre was open daily from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The children
admitted were between the ages of 2 an,1 5 years. They were not suffering from any definite
illness, but were selected from those attending the various welfare ccntrcs in the Borough as
being likely to derive benefit from this form of treatment.
The parents were required to sign a form accepting all responsibility in connection with the
child's attendance and were asked to provide a towel, bathing slip and a sun hat. Miss Garnett
subsequently organised a Mothers' Committee, the members of which made suitable bathing
slips of cellular cotton material, and these could be purchased for a few pence. The mothers
also assisted the Supervisor in taking charge of the children.
Method and Attendances.
The method adopted was to arrange tho children into groups according to their susceptibility
to sunlight—this depends partly on age, partly on ability to pigment, and partly on
previous exposure. After a few exposures, the older children do not require so much supervision,
and the nurse is able to concentrate on the group containing the youngest and most susceptible.
Each child was weighed at the first attendance and subsequently once a week. Tho shower
baths had been placed at such a height that the force of water was too great for small children,
but a shower bath improvised from a watering can proved to be a popular part of tho
During the brief heat wave which occurred in the last week of August and the first few
days of September, the attendance was very good, but during the remainder of the period when
the weather was extremely unsatisfactory, the attendance suffered in consequence. During the
extreme heat, difficulty was experienced in securing some protection from the direct rays of the
sun. The shelter will only accommodate a small number of children and the trees in the
vicinity were inadequate. If the Centre is to be again used for sun bathing, some form of
awning, should be provided, either around the building or in the grounds. The total number of
children entered on the register during the seven weeks the Centre was open was 148, and the
number of attendances each week was as follows:—44, 90, 293, 249, 152, 112, 86, making the
total attendances 1,026.
The morning session was much less popular than the afternoon, doubtless owing to the
mothers' domestic duties. Of the total of 148 children, 24 attended in the morning and 124 in
the afternoon.
29 children attended once only, 18 made only two attendances, 20 made three attendances,
9 attended four times; therefore rather more than half the children entered on the register only
made 4 or less attendances.
On five days, owing to exceptionally bad weather, no children attended, and on several
other days the number present varied from 1 to 3.
Conclusions and Results.
It is difficult to express an opinion as to the effect on the health of the children, owing to
the short time the Centre was in use, the extremely unsatisfactory weather during the greater
part of the time and consequent irregular attendance, or small number of attendances niade by