Early Hospital Photographs

Some early photographers were interested in documenting the patients and equipment in hospitals. I found some good examples online.

Babies in incubators. Crystal Palace Hospital London, 1910.

An early form of X-Ray machine being used, 1913.

Lydia Ward for children. Guy’s Hospital, London. 1907

An experimental ECG machine being used for heart tests. National Heart Hospital, London. 1916.

Children outside on a hospital balcony. Salford, Lancashire. 1905. At the time, great emphasis was put on fresh air to aid recovery.

The new operating theatre at Dollis Hill Hospital, London. 1920.

The Canadian Military Convalescent Hospital in Epsom. 1918

The Whirlpool Bath at Manor House Hospital, London. 1920. The man with his leg in the bath is wearing Army hospital uniform, so is likely to still be receiving treatment for injuries sustained in WW1.

The Women and Children’s Hospital in Leeds, Yorkshire around 1916. Once again, they have wheeled the children outside for ‘fresh air’.

President Ward at St Bartholemew’s Hospital in London. 1909.

The Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry, Shropshire. 1910. The ward is open to the elements during the day for more of that ‘fresh air’.

Finsen light treatment for Lupus. The London Hospital, 1906.

The NHS: Something good

There are always stories in the media about the poor state of the Heath Service in this country. We have all heard the sorry sagas of unacceptable waiting times, botched operations, and postcode-lottery drug administration. You could be forgiven for believing that the NHS is on the verge of collapse; swamped by high demand, pressurised by an increased immigrant population, employing staff who have no interest in the job. This is not my experience though, and I feel that someone needs to put the opposite view, just for a change.

In any organisation as large as the British National Health Service, there will always be errors. It is impossible to provide a service envied the world over, without accepting the reality of mistakes being made occasionally, and the odd member of staff who is not up to the job. I do not wish to detract from individual cases of tragedy, or to comment on them. Instead, I would like to offer an overview of where it does work, instead of criticising every tiny aspect of where it does not. I must start by stating that I know of nowhere else where a system like this exists, and works. We pay a relatively small amount into our National Insurance Scheme, and receive huge benefits in return. Those not working, or unable to pay, receive exactly the same care, free of charge.

Of course, I would like to see an end to prescription charges, still paid in England. I would also like to see a return to completely free dental care. With the right party in government, this would all be achievable. Despite this, the care provided really is exceptional. Those of you who are healthy enough not to need to visit a doctor, hospital, or other medical service provider may wonder what all the fuss is about. One day, you will find out. It is naturally more difficult to provide a good service in areas of high population density. Or is it? When I lived in London, I could normally see a GP within a week. If that wasn’t satisfactory, I could sit in the surgery, and would be seen after the other appointments. Attending a clinic in one of London’s busiest hospitals, University College, I was seen in under an hour. I only waited one week for the appointment to arrive too. At the same hospital, I waited just fifteen minutes for a blood test, and the results were with my doctor in four days. By my standards, by any standards, that’s very good.

Here in Norfolk, despite constant publicity to the contrary, it is even better. My GP has contacted me at home in the evenings, something unheard of in London. The out-patient appointments at the Norwich and Norfolk hospital are efficient, and thorough too. The staff are friendly and committed, and patients are never left to feel that they are an intrusion. The consultants and junior doctors take time to explain your case, and their treatment, and interact with you as if you are an adult, who wants to know what is going on. It is true that the regional Ambulance Service has a poor record. Given the legacy of poor management, under-funding, and the sheer physical geography of this region, that is understandable, if not excusable. The whole county has only two main roads, few dual-carriageways, and no motorway. Remote villages, weather problems, and the logistics of running a service covering six counties, all adds up to a problem that needs to be solved.

There are few major hospitals in this county. The ones that do exist are constantly criticised, with little balanced reporting of their struggle against the problems that they have to deal with. But there is little mention of the many good things. Mobile clinics, that remove the difficulty for patients of having to travel into the towns and cities for treatment. Sensible use of smaller hospitals, to provide out of hours GP clinics, geriatric care, and other community-based services. Widespread use of mobile community nurses, offering visits and treatment in the patients’ own home. We have had occasion to attend Eye clinics and Diabetic clinics, and my step-daughter has received very good service from the Maternity Department and Midwife team. Nothing seems to be too much trouble. Telephone calls to any branch of the NHS here are dealt with quickly and professionally. E mails are answered promptly, letters are sent out when due, and text message reminders of appointments are also commonplace.

I didn’t need the NHS for most of my life; but as soon as I did, it came through.

There is no magic wand to wave to make this service faultless. Given the increasing and ageing population, financial restraints, and new advances in medicine, it is always going to appear to be catching up. But it is undeniably good. And when you need it most, you will realise just how good it is.

Getting on a bit

I have been posting lately about having a skin complaint, and high cholesterol. I have been to the doctor’s more times this year, than in the previous five years. I also suffer from Glaucoma, and have been trying to get an appointment at the hospital all year, for routine eye checks. My reading glasses were changed for varifocals some years ago. I now find that I am wearing them for a lot more than reading. Looking at products in the supermarket, watching some TV programmes, or foreign films with subtitles, all becomes a lot clearer with the glasses on. I can no longer read anything, except maybe huge font headlines, unless I am wearing the glasses. This means that I always have to have them around, and make sure that I always have them when I go out. Although I don’t yet need them to drive, as my long distance vision if still good, I would need them to use the mobile phone, or read a menu in a restaurant.

Tonight, I cut (what is left of) my hair. I stopped going to the barber’s shop years ago, when it started taking him less than five minutes to clipper off what remained. I bought my own hair trimmers, and have done my own barbering, sheep-shearing style, ever since. Julie remarked that my hair was now ‘completely white’. There are traces of the brown visible when it is slightly longer, but cut down to a ‘number one’, it is as white as snow. This will also stop me ever considering the growing of a beard or moustache, as I would look like a crop-haired Santa Claus.

Last week, we went on a trip to have a look at Downham Market, another small town in Norfolk. During our wander around, Julie bought me a jar of locally produced morello cherry jam, my personal favourite toast topper. When I fancied trying it the other day, I was completely unable to free the lid. I donned rubber gloves, still no luck. I tried wrapping it in a cloth, but it wouldn’t budge. I took the jar through to Julie, and complained that I was unable to open it. She gave it a twist, and it opened with a pop. I stood humiliated, a grown man having to get his wife to open a jar. It was like being a child all over again. Except a child doesn’t care who opens their jam.

On Monday, there were things to put into the loft. I got the ladder in, and inspected the parcels, prepared by Julie the previous day. Nothing too arduous, I reasoned. Two suitcases, wrapped in plastic for storage. Two bags of clothes to go away until next winter, and some small boxes. By the time I had finished hauling them individually up the ladder, crawling around in the loft to place them, and tidying away afterwards, I felt whacked out, and ready for a coffee, and a sit down.

So, with all this medical stuff, failing eyesight, snowy hair, and diminishing strength, I have had to come to an unpleasant conclusion.

I have to admit that I am getting on a bit…


About three years ago, I had a routine blood test at my GP. He diagnosed excessively high Cholesterol, and said that I would have to immediately begin taking Statins, a drug designed to reduce the Cholesterol in my bloodstream. I read up about this drug on the Internet, and voiced my concerns to the GP, before getting the prescription. He was having none of it. If I wanted to stay in his practice, I would take the drugs he prescribed, and heed his advice, or leave, and find a new doctor.

So, I began three and a bit years of taking Simvastin, the proprietary brand of Statin. Regular blood tests were carried out at the local hospital, and I received no more information, so presumed all was well, and that the tablets were doing their job correctly. When I moved to Norfolk this year, I was readily given a repeat prescription, no questions asked, so continued to take them as before. However, I had started to experience sharp pains in my arm muscles, especially after exercise. This was accompanied by a marked reduction in the size and strength of my upper arm muscles, and an inability to lift weights of any consequence. I convinced myself that the Statins were something to do with this, and decided to make inquiries again, at the new GP surgery in Norfolk.

On the day that I attended the surgery, I was fortunate to see a locum doctor. She confirmed that it may well be the Statins causing the problem. She also told me that Simvastin was the cheapest option for prescription, as it only cost 20p a box, and that ‘better’ ones were available.  She suggested extensive blood tests, this time targeted specifically at trying to discover the extent of muscle damage. The bloods were taken and sent off, and I was advised to await a call, then to make a further appointment.

What happened next, was something that has never happened to me, in over 50 years of visiting a GP. I was telephoned at home, at 7 in the evening, by a Doctor who told me that I must stop taking the Statins immediately, and not resume them at all, under any circumstances. It seems that my fears were grounded. The Statins had worn away the Cholesterol sleeve around the muscles, and that tissue was being carried in the bloodstream, where it was detected chemically in the liver and kidneys. In effect, my forearm and upper arm muscles had ceased to develop, and it was unlikely that exercise would help. If anything, it would only cause greater discomfort in the long term.

I now wait to hear what, if anything, can be done. They may prescribe a ‘different’ Statin, but that is unlikely. The chances are, I will just be left to ponder bad advice from the GP in London. So, if any of you are told that you need this catch-all ‘wonder drug’, think very carefully before starting to take it. Do some research, and make sure that there is not a better alternative.