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Pre-1948: Before the NHS

Before World War Two, most working men were members of the National Health Insurance Scheme. Some women and children could see a ‘Club Doctor’ because they paid into a ‘sick club’. A large part of the population – the unemployed, the elderly and most women and children – could not afford to pay doctors’ fees or for insurance.

In Glasgow, the Corporation (as the City Council was then called) had set up a district medical service to help the many people who simply had no access to healthcare. The Corporation was also responsible for most of the hospitals within the City.

Other hospitals were funded by voluntary subscriptions – the Rottenrow maternity hospital, Yorkhill and the Western, Victoria and Royal Infirmaries. ‘Voluntary’ hospitals like these provided accident and emergency services, undertook the most complex surgical work and were centres of university teaching and research.

Under the new NHS, the hospitals were nationalised. Family doctors (GPs) became independent contractors because many of them objected to becoming employees of the government. Local authorities remained responsible for health visitors, sanitary inspection and public health.

These documents below from 1943, midway through Word War 2 and five years before the NHS was founded, show some statistics regarding hospital, staff and visitor numbers, as well as a distribution list of medical and surgical supplies for hospitals.

  

The oldest of Glasgow's hospitals, Glasgow Royal Infirmary opened in 1794 on the ruins of the Bishop’s Castle which...

The oldest of Glasgow's hospitals, Glasgow Royal Infirmary opened in 1794 on the ruins of the Bishop’s Castle which dated from at least the 13th century.

It was a huge achievement of the time, being the first permanent facility offering emergency care to the city.

A fever house was added 30 years later, and a Surgical House followed in 1861.

This was where Lister pioneered antiseptic techniques and revolutionised surgery.

The GRI's Schaw Convalescent Home opened in 1895 and the Canniesburn Auxiliary Hospital opened in 1938.

The GRI was Glasgow's only teaching hospital until 1874 when the University removed its teaching to the new Western Infirmary.  In 1876 the Glasgow Royal Infirmary Medical School was established and university teaching in the GRI resumed in 1911.

The Glasgow Lunatic Asylum opened on Parliamentary Road in the on site now covered by Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow i...

The Glasgow Lunatic Asylum opened on Parliamentary Road in the on site now covered by Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow in 1814.

The Committee of Management of the Glasgow Lunatic Asylum was formed in 1804. Construction of the Asylum commenced in 1810 and was completed in 1814.

The Glasgow Eye Infirmary was founded in 1824. In 1874 it moved into purpose built accommodation in the West End of ...

The Glasgow Eye Infirmary was founded in 1824.

In 1874 it moved into purpose built accommodation in the West End of Glasgow at Berkeley Street which, by the late 1880s, had over 100 beds.

The Infirmary continued to run an outpatients department in the East End.

In 1945 the Spencer Research Committee was formed with capital of over £12,000, to oversee research in the GEI.

In 1971 the entire in-patient accommodation at Berkeley Street was destroyed by fire: an outpatients department continues there.

From 1948-1974 the Glasgow Eye Infirmary was under the Board of Management for Glasgow Western (later Western and Gartnavel) Hospitals.

In 1974 it was placed in the Western District of the Greater Glasgow Helath Board and in 1993 it became the responsibility of the West Glasgow University NHS Trust.

In the late 1990s the functions of the GEI were re-located to Gartnavel General Hospital.

The Glasgow Royal Asylum moves to the present Gartnavel site in the west of the City to escape from noise and polluti...

The Glasgow Royal Asylum moves to the present Gartnavel site in the west of the City to escape from noise and pollution of the growing city.

The Tudor Gothic style buildings were designed by Charles Wilson to allow segregation both by gender and social class: the West House was for private patients and the separate East House was for paupers.

 

The Royal Alexandra Infirmary traces its origins to a general dispensary providing out-patient and pharmacy services ...

The Royal Alexandra Infirmary traces its origins to a general dispensary providing out-patient and pharmacy services to the sick poor which was opened in 1788.

From this came the House of Recovery opened on 1805 which catered for infectious diseases cases only until 1850 when it became a general infirmary with medical and surgical wards.

For a brief history please click here.

 

 

Loch Katrine is now owned by Scottish Water, and has been the primary water reservoir for much of the city of Glasgow...

Loch Katrine is now owned by Scottish Water, and has been the primary water reservoir for much of the city of Glasgow and its surrounding areas since 1859.

The water level has been artificially raised by around 1.8 metres (5.9 ft) - the loch can be drawn down by a maximum of 2 metres (6.6 ft) in order to provide gravitational flow to the Milngavie water treatment works via two 41 kilometres (25 mi) long aqueducts and 21 kilometres (13 mi) of tunnel. Milngavie itself is situated at almost 122 metres (400 ft) above sea level - sufficient to provide adequate water pressure to the majority of the city without the need for pumping. The system can deliver up to 230,000,000 litres (51,000,000 imp gal) a day. Construction was started in 1855 and the works was opened by Queen Victoria in 1859.

The aqueduct project was built under the guidance of the eminent civil engineer John Frederick Bateman (1810–1889), an example of his engineering prowess that can still be seen working today. The second aqueduct was opened in 1901.

Water levels are supplemented via a dam and short tunnel from Loch Arklet, a reservoir located between Loch Katrine itself and Loch Lomond, beside the road to Inversnaid, this project was completed in 1914. A longer tunnel beneath Ben A'an which brings water from the Glen Finglas Reservoir was completed in 1958, with dam being completed in 1965.

Oil-fired vessels are not permitted to sail its waters due to the danger of pollution to the drinking water of Glasgow. The steamboat SS Sir Walter Scott has provided sailings on the Loch since 1900. It was coal-fired until 2007, when it was converted to use bio-diesel fuel, and continues to provide local tourist transport between Trossachs Pier and Stronachlachar during the summer.

Joseph Lister introduced pioneering antiseptic methods in the 1860s making Glasgow Royal Infirmary the birthplace of ...

Joseph Lister introduced pioneering antiseptic methods in the 1860s making Glasgow Royal Infirmary the birthplace of modern surgery.

Appointed as the hospital’s Professor of Surgery in 1860, Lister experimented with the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic to prevent the spread of infection in wounds, the main cause of many post-operative deaths.

The first patient to be successfully treated for a compound fracture (where the bone has perforated the skin) was James Greenlees in August 1865.

James Burn Russell (1837-1904) was a doctor and Glasgow's first full-time Medical Officer of Health. Early experienc...

James Burn Russell (1837-1904) was a doctor and Glasgow's first full-time Medical Officer of Health.

Early experiences at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, the City Poorhouse and as Physician Superintendent of Glasgow's fever hospitals convinced Russell of the need for improvements in living conditions as a first step towards effective preventive medicine. His appointment as full-time Medical Officer of Health in 1872 signalled a crusade to improve public health in Glasgow which lasted for over a quarter of a century until his appointment as Medical Member of the Local Government Board for Scotland in 1898.

Russell succeeded in persuading the Town Council to play an active role in improving sanitation, pollution control and slum clearance in what he described as a "semi-asphyxiated city". In doing so he often incurred the wrath of vested interests. Reforms such as compulsory notification of infectious diseases helped reduce the city's death rate dramatically, which in turn established Russell's world-wide reputation as a public health pioneer.

In the 1870s, when the University of Glasgow moved from the city centre to the West End, distancing itself from the R...

In the 1870s, when the University of Glasgow moved from the city centre to the West End, distancing itself from the Royal Infirmary, a new teaching hospital was built in 1874 as part of the new university buildings. By 1890 there had already been 877 operations performed in the hospital.

Initially only having 150 beds, by 1911 this had increased to over six hundred. In 1936 the decision was taken to establish a medical department. In 1938 the Gardiner Institute of Medicine opened, taking its name from the family that had gifted almost £25,000 towards its foundation.

In 1930 a radiology department opened. In 1936 a new ophthalmology department was officially opened, named the Tennent Memorial, with an entrance on Church Street. In 1938 the research capacity increased with the opening of the Gardiner Institute, in conjunction with the University of Glasgow.

A £3.5 million two-phase rebuilding programme was authorised by the Glasgow Corporation in June 1962 The 256–bed Phase 1 block was completed in 1974. After the completion of the nearby Gartnavel General Hospital in 1972, Phase 2 was indefinitely postponed in 1975.

The Western Infirmary opened as a voluntary hospital relying upon donations and bequests from members of the public. In 1948 with the introduction of the National Health Service the Western came under the management of the Glasgow Western Hospitals Board of Management.

In 2002, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde announced the results of a three-year consultation, the Greater Glasgow's Acute Services Review, wherein they outlined a £700 million modernisation plan for Glasgow's hospitals. As part of the plan, services will be transferred to expanded facilities at Gartnavel General Hospital, but mainly to the South Glasgow University Hospital. In 2010 the western had 493 inpatient beds.

In Autumn 2015, the Western Infirmary was shut down with the exception of the minor injuries unit, and the site will be redeveloped by the University of Glasgow. At the end of 2015 the Minor Injuries Unit moved a short distance to the Yorkhill Hospital site and the Western Infirmary closed completely on 6 December 2015.

The old Western 1874

 

In an improvised operating theatre crowded with doctors and undergraduates on the top floor of the Glasgow Royal Mate...

In an improvised operating theatre crowded with doctors and undergraduates on the top floor of the Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital, Rottenrow on 10 April 1888, Murdoch Cameron carried out the first Caesarean section under modern antiseptic conditions.

The patient, Catherine Colquhoun, was a rachitic dwarf incapable of natural birth. Cameron, who as an undergraduate had worked as a surgical dresser to the pioneer of antiseptic surgery Joseph Lister at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, helped transform the Caesarean section, under antiseptic conditions, from a dreaded and little used procedure, that usually ended with the death of the mother, into the routine and safe operation it has become.

The Victoria Infirmary was opened in 1890 as a voluntary hospital, paid for entirely by donations. A further wing was...

The Victoria Infirmary was opened in 1890 as a voluntary hospital, paid for entirely by donations. A further wing was added in 1927 and a paying patients block was completed in 1935. In the late 1940s the Infirmary was designated a major teaching hospital.
The Victoria built the first country auxiliary hospital in Scotland, Philipshill Hospital, in 1929.

In 1895 at Glasgow Royal Infirmary she started the first training school for nurses, her methods were later widely ad...

In 1895 at Glasgow Royal Infirmary she started the first training school for nurses, her methods were later widely adopted by the profession

In 1896 John Macintyre established the world’s first X-ray unit at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Macintyre set up th...

In 1896 John Macintyre established the world’s first X-ray unit at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Macintyre set up the world's first radiology unit at the GRI, taking X-ray photographs of patients to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of injuries and illness, and in 1902 opened a purpose-built unit there.

He produced the first instantaneous X-Ray, and the first X-Rays of renal stones and the interior of numerous parts of the body. 

Ruchill Hospital opened in 1900 as an infectious diseases hospital.  The hospital initially had 440 beds. By 1915 t...

Ruchill Hospital opened in 1900 as an infectious diseases hospital.  The hospital initially had 440 beds.

By 1915 there was 272 beds added for tuberculosis patients.

It had 1,000 beds when it was absorbed into the National Health Service in 1948.

By 1975 the number of in-patients was 586, 445 in 1980 and 280 in 1990.

The hospital's scope changed after 1960 as young chronic sick, geriatric and psychiatric patients were catered for whilst tuberculosis and other infectious disease patients became few in number.

Ruchill Hospital closed its doors in 1998.

 

In early August 1900, there was a series of deaths in the city which were initially attributed to typhoid but some of...

In early August 1900, there was a series of deaths in the city which were initially attributed to typhoid but some of the symptoms perplexed one of the doctors involved and on further investigation it was discovered that they were suffering from bubonic plague. 

The city of Glasgow's own public health department, when it dissected rats which were captured in the area where the disease was prevalent, noticed that a considerable number of them were infected by the disease and the disease is carried by fleas.

The plague was first seen in people living in the densely-populated area of the Gorbals. At the time, a part of the city which had many other problems.

Glasgow's response to the plague had different elements.

Rat catchers were sent out in large numbers in an effort to reduce the vermin population, while with the agreement of the Catholic Church, there was also a temporary suspension of wakes, as it was believed that gatherings of people could be implicated in the spread the disease.

In the end, something like 36 cases were identified and 16 people died.

Stobhill Hospital was built by the Glasgow City and Barony Parish Council and opened in September 1904. In 1930 Stob...

Stobhill Hospital was built by the Glasgow City and Barony Parish Council and opened in September 1904.

In 1930 Stobhill became a Glasgow Corporation hospital.

In 1948 Stobhill transferred to the NHS.

Many extensions and upgradings followed although the bed complement dropped, falling below 1,000 by 1965.

In 1967 – 69 a Clinical Teaching Centre was completed.

In 1974 administrative responsibility for Stobhill passed to the Northern District of new GGHB.

The maternity unit was closed in 1992/93, leaving Stobhill as a general and geriatric medicine hospital.

The Stobhill NHS Trust was created in 1993. This then merged with two other trusts overseeing Glasgow Royal Infirmary, the Western Infirmary and Gartnavel General Hospital for the creation of North Glasgow University Hospitals NHS Trust in 1999. This in turn was replaced by the North Glasgow Division of NHS Greater Glasgow in 2004.

In 2009, the new Stobhill hospital building opened. The purpose-built hospital provides a number of specialist services including cardiology, renal dialysis, and gynaecology, as well as a minor injuries unit. 

For further history on the hospital please click here.

Also please click into our Flickr gallery as below to see a few old pictures or click here.

Robroyston Hospital opened for business in 1918 as a municipal smallpox and tuberculosis hospital. It was temporaril...

Robroyston Hospital opened for business in 1918 as a municipal smallpox and tuberculosis hospital.

It was temporarily used as a military hospital in 1918–1919.

By 1925, 450 beds were devoted to tuberculosis patients, almost half of Glasgow’s total complement.

In  1945  a maternity unit was added.

In  1948  Robroyston joined the National Health Service under the Board of Management for Glasgow Northern Hospitals.

In 1974 it was placed in the Northern District of the Greater Glasgow Health Board.

In  1977  Robroyston was closed.

The first recorded mention of the Southern General Hospital was in 1922 when the poorhouse, hospital and asylum at Me...

The first recorded mention of the Southern General Hospital was in 1922 when the poorhouse, hospital and asylum at Merryflats were so renamed, but the history of healthcare in the parish of Govan stretches back at least a further 70 years.

To read a complete history of The Southern General Hospital 1922 - 2015 please click here.

Penicillin was discovered in 1928 by Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming. People began using it to treat infections ...

Penicillin was discovered in 1928 by Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming. People began using it to treat infections in 1942.

The accidental discovery of penicillin changed the course of medicine and is now the most widely used antibiotic in the world.

Mearnskirk Hospital was built as a children’s tuberculosis hospital by Glasgow Corporation’s Public Health Department...

Mearnskirk Hospital was built as a children’s tuberculosis hospital by Glasgow Corporation’s Public Health Department.

It opened in 1930 and had 500 beds. Between 1939 and 1946 the hospital was used firstly as an Emergency Medical Service Hospital and later as a Naval Auxiliary Hospital.

It reverted to civilian use as a tuberculosis hospital but rapidly diversified under the National Health Service.

In its long history, it has been visited by a number of Hollywood stars and royalty, including Princess Margaret and actor Roy Rodgers.

He was a Scottish physician, biochemist, medical researcher and nutritionist who was a leading authority on metabolism.

He was a Scottish physician, biochemist, medical researcher and nutritionist who was a leading authority on metabolism.

Led by first professor of ophthalmology in UK.

Led by first professor of ophthalmology in UK.

This Physiotherapist founded ergonomics (which he called human kinetics) and devised lifting techniques utilising the...

This Physiotherapist founded ergonomics (which he called human kinetics) and devised lifting techniques utilising the legs rather than the back to take the strain.

Economist William Beveridge sets out his vision of a post-war Welfare State to banish from Britain the evils of the '...

Economist William Beveridge sets out his vision of a post-war Welfare State to banish from Britain the evils of the 'Five Giants' – want, ignorance, squalor, idleness and disease.