chapter  2
24 Pages

Legacies, donations and municipal priorities: the development of the hospital services prior to 1948 Voluntary and municipal hospital provision: an historical

The development of the hospital services prior to 1948

The pattern of hospital provision prior to the NHS is often summed up with reference to two key comments. First, there is Aneurin Bevan’s argument, in the Second Reading of the NHS Bill, that the ‘caprice of charity’ determined the pattern of provision, so that the ‘best hospital facilities were available where they were least needed’.1 Second, there is Abel-Smith’s (1964: 405) contention that the distribution of voluntary hospitals depended on the ‘donations of the living and the legacies of the dead’. Such ringing phrases have acquired the status of a conventional wisdom, being recycled, as Powell (1997: 30-1) points out, by many commentators. Others have questioned such pessimistic judgements, contending that the voluntary system was thriving prior to 1948. Thus, Seldon (quoted in Green (1996: 37), argues that, but for nationalisation, the voluntary sector would have continued, like a ‘galloping horse’, to expand hospital services.