The Culture and Politics of Hospital Contributory Schemes

Barry Doyle (University of Huddersfield)
22 March 2010


The funding of hospitals in interwar Britain was transformed by the development of a range of schemes designed to raise money from patients in return for more or less assured access to treatment. The form of these schemes varied significantly from traditional Saturday and Sunday Fund collections through workplace collections with representation on hospital committees; city wide collection funds independent of the hospitals to contributory schemes based either on a hospital or group of hospitals or a locality.
Recent work by Steve Cherry and Gorsky, Mohan and Willis as well as the research by Doyle on Middlesbrough has helped to foreground the importance of these activities to the financial viability of interwar voluntary hospitals and has gone some way to open up the operation of these schemes to greater scrutiny and understanding. However, their social, cultural and political make up has received little attention and we know very little about who joined, how the various types of schemes operated on a day to day basis and the extent to which they became politicised in the increasingly class ridden inter war years.
This paper will examine some of these themes through a case study of a scheme in urban Yorkshire – The Leeds and District Workpeople’s Hospital Fund. Drawing on annual reports, scheme publications like the Leeds Hospital Magazine and the extensive published, it will examine how schemes were organised on the ground, who ran them and if they were prone to class, ethnic and political segregation. Inter alia it will explore whether they continued to operate as pan-class activist organisations or succumbed to functionalist demands to provide insurance and guaranteed treatment

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