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The NHS In Liverpool

Following Labour’s victory in the 1945 General Election, Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan was appointed Minister of Health (and housing) by Prime Minister Clement Atlee. Nye Bevan discarded previous compromises to provide a public health service and took new proposals to Cabinet. The proposals included a system based on regions and taking all hospitals into public ownership. The National Health Service began on July 5, 1948. When health Secretary Aneurin Bevan opened Park Hospital in Manchester it was the climax of a hugely ambitious plan to bring good healthcare to all. For the first time hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella organisation to provide services that are free for all.

Liverpool workhouse infirmary from the south, c.1925.

Before the National Health Service was set up in 1948, if you needed hospital treatment and were unable to pay for private treatment, your options were to try to obtain treatment either at a voluntary hospital or at a public hospital run by the local authorities. Voluntary hospitals in Liverpool had been in existence since the setting up of the Liverpool Infirmary (later the Liverpool Royal Infirmary) in 1749. The nineteenth century saw a number of new voluntary hospitals set up, such as the David Lewis Northern Hospital and the Royal
David Lewis Northern Hospital,
as seen from Great Howard Street 

Southern Hospital. Voluntary hospitals were able to offer only limited free treatment; patients were expected to pay what they could afford or to reimburse expenses at a later date.  Liverpool had a number of workhouses such as Toxteth Park, Mill Road and Belmont, run by Poor Law unions, which were public bodies, to care for the destitute. During the latter part of the nineteenth century the level of medical care provided for workhouse inmates increased. The hospital wings of these workhouses increased in size and patients were admitted to the workhouse hospitals for treatment rather than being admitted as workhouse Inmates. The workhouses often changed their name to ‘institutions’ after about 1913 to reflect this change in role and also because the name ‘workhouse’ carried a stigma. In 1930 the Poor Law unions were abolished and medical care for the poor became the responsibility of a local Public Assistance Committee. The workhouses officially became known as hospitals at this time or shortly thereafter but the association with the workhouse remained and some people would have been reluctant to ask for free care at these hospitals for this reason.

Liverpool Royal Infirmary 1908

In 1948 both the voluntary and public hospitals came into the ownership of the National Health Service and were put under the management of local hospital management committees under the Liverpool Regional Health Board. A reorganisation of the National Health Service in 1974 saw Liverpool hospitals come under district health authorities as part of the Liverpool Area Health Authority, in turn part of the Mersey Regional Health Authority. Between 1991 and 1995 Liverpool hospitals became independent NHS trusts.

The National Health Service Act 1946, which set up the NHS, contained a provision that NHS services should be provided free of charge, but in 1949 legislation providing for a prescriptions charge was passed by the Labour Government through the NHS (Amendment) Act 1949. Although the power is introduced in 1949, the charge itself is not introduced until 1952.

The City Of Liverpool was fortunate, in that it had a large number of hospitals catering to the needs of its population, Sadly, many of these hospitals no longer exist, although some, but few of the buildings remain.

St Pauls Eye Hospital

Stanley Hospital

The Hahnemann Homeopathic Hospital in Hope Street 1888

Below is a list of Liverpool Hospitals and related organisations together with their dates of operation’

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, 1915-1984
Belmont Road Institution/Hospital, 1909-1950
Later Newsham General Hospital.
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, 1915-1984
Belmont Road Institution/Hospital , 1909-1950
Later, Newsham General Hospital.
Bootle Borough Hospital, c1898-1976
Broadgreen Hospital,  1931-1989
Fazakerley Hospital, 1902-1974
Fazakerley Sanatorium, 1920-c1950
Home for Incurables, 1875-1885
Later Liverpool Home for Incurables/Home for Invalid Women/
Princes Park Hospital.
Home for Invalid Women, 1948-1969
Also Home for Incurables, Liverpool Home for Incurables,
Princes Park Hospital.
Liverpool Area Health Authority, 1844-1986
Liverpool City Sanatorium for Tuberculosis, 1919
Liverpool Dental Hospital,1879-1970
Liverpool Ear, Nose and Throat Infirmary, 1820-1978
Liverpool Hahnemann Hospital and Homoeopathic Dispensaries,1871-1976
Royal Southern Hospital, 1841-1980
Sefton General Hospital, 1950-1986
Earlier Smithdown Road Infirmary
Smithdown Road Workhouse/Institution/ Infirmary,1860-1950
Later Sefton General Hospital.
Sparrow Hall Hospital, 1920-1943
St Paul’s Eye Hospital, 1872-1992
Walton Workhouse/Institution/Hospital, 1898-c1998
Women’s Hospital, Catharine Street, 1870-1996
Liverpool Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest, 1864-1928
Liverpool Infirmary for Children,1857-1920
Later Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital
Liverpool Maternity Hospital, 1826-1995
Liverpool Royal Infirmary, 1749-1983
Liverpool Stanley Hospital, 1867-1965
Liverpool Women’s Hospital, Crown Street, 1995-2002
Mill Road Hospital/Maternity Hospital, 1857-1994
Newsham General Hospital, 1950-1988
Earlier Belmont Road Institution.
Princes Park Hospital, 1969-1986
Earlier Home for Incurables/Liverpool Home for Incurables/
Home for Invalid Women.
Rainhill Asylum/Hospital, 1851-1981 Serving Liverpool
Royal Liverpool Babies Hospital, 1924-1975

Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital, 1920-1990

The second Infirmary, Brownlow Street, 1824-1890.

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LRO, Liverpool Record Office
NHS Reforms Document
History programme administered by the Wellcome Trust
and the British Library

By Robert F Edwards

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