Hints from the Health Department. Leaflet from the archive of the Society of Medical Officers of Health. Credit: Wellcome Collection, London
[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]
medical officers of health should not be required to visit the homes of children absent
from school for unknown causes.
Arising out of a recommendation of the medical officer of health of the City of
Westminster, it was also decided that a paragraph should be inserted in the measles
warning notice, which is issued by the borough councils and distributed to the parents
through the agency of the schools, to the eSect that " if children are absent from school
for more than two days, parents are specially asked to send a note to the head
teacher stating the reason for such absence."
The Council, in November, 1931, had under consideration a report of the Central
Public Health Committee on the hospital treatment of measles in London, and in
connection therewith the Committee drew attention to the importance of the
assistance which the public and particularly parents can give towards coping with
measles epidemics. The Committee emphasised the serious nature of the disease
and referred to the efforts that should be made to postpone its contraction, and to
the necessity for adequate medical, nursing and hygienic care. This report was
communicated to the press and received a considerable amount of publicity.
A certain amount of measles serum from adults has been obtained as the result
of an appeal to the staffs of the Council's hospitals for donors of blood. This serum
is being used in the children's wards of the hospitals to prevent attacks of measles in
very young children who have been exposed to infection, or to ameliorate the severity
of an attack in the older ones. At the time of the preparation of this report (March)
the use of this serum had been extended to the residential schools and children's
homes for the same purpose.
The scheme of control referred to above had been put into operation and applied
to 166 schools before the Christmas holidays. At the end of the year, the Council
authorised the employment of additional nursing staff to cope with the heavy demands
on the time of the school nurses in connection with the application of the scheme in
the affected schools.
An analysis of the results of the special medical examination of certain children
attending schools in Southwark is given on page 8.
In my last annual report a brief reference was made to the formulation of a
comprehensive scheme in connection with the control of infectious diseases in the
residential schools and children's homes transferred to the Council under the Local
Government Act, 1929. A review of the situation had revealed that the quarantine
systems adopted in many of these institutions were often ineffective and wasteful,
both in relation to accommodation and the employment of staff. Apart from these
considerations it was found that the organisation adopted by the Council for the
steady flow of children from the receiving homes to the schools, and from one school
to another was being seriously interfered with. The main factors to be taken into
consideration in preparing the scheme were :—(1) the provision of adequate protection
against the introduction and spread of infection ; and (2) the minimum of disturbance
(a) of the machinery devised by the public assistance and education departments for
dealing with admissions, transfers, etc.; (b) of the regime of the schools and homes.
After consultation with the education officer and chief officer of public assistance,
the scheme which was approved by the Committees concerned was printed in booklet
form, and became operative in July.
The fact that the administration of the hospitals of the late Metropolitan Asylums
Board has also been transferred to the Council has simplified the problem considerably,
as it has been possible to provide for the immediate removal from the schools and
homes of cases of infectious illness including diseases of the skin and eyes.
The quarantine of schools and homes on the occurrence of infectious disease,
i.e., the cessation of discharges and admissions and the general segregation of all
contacts, has been abandoned in favour of a scheme of special supervision by means
of which children are segregated as soon as the onset of illness appears, pending
examination by the medical officer.
The scheme provides that on receipt of the order for admission to a receiving
home, the relieving officer is required to make enquiries at the home of the child