The Development of the London Hospital System,

1823 - 2015

Geoffrey Rivett

homeshaping the systemvoluntary hospitalspoor law infirmariesmedical schoolsfever hospitalsproblems & solutionsshaping the futureInter-war yearsregions & districtsthe EMSBevanhospital developmentrationalisationstringencydistricts to trustsoverview



Sir Frederick Menzies - the Medical Officer of Health for London Count Council, was a towering figure relating not only to his own Council but to the voluntary hospitals and the Ministry of Health.

BMJ Editorial on 14th October 1939

Widespread regret will be felt at the announcement that Sir Frederick Menzies has resigned his position as medical officer of health and school medical officer to the London County Council. The regret will be accentuated by the fact that the retirement has come bout at his own request, a year earlier than it would have fallen due under the age limit, owing to the virtual disappearance for the duration of the war of the L.C.C. public health department and the hospital services as a unit organization. In seeing his work dispersed and his plans for the future indefinitely postponed Sir Frederick Menzies shares the distressing experience of many others who have to do with public health and hospitals at the present time. The exigencies of the war have uprooted in a day what it took many careful years to plan. But the London County Council service had been built up to an efficiency which made it a pattern to the whole country, and indeed to public health work everywhere. Sir Frederick Menzies has had a very full career in the public service. It would be tedious to recount all the departmental  committees and voluntary bodies of which he has been a member, but mention should be made of his work on the departmental  committee some ten or twelve years ago which was concerned with the training and  employment of midwives, and on the more recent interdepartmental committee which has had to do with the nursing services. He was also one of the founders of the Central Council for Maternity and Child Welfare and of the Central Council for the Social Welfare of Girls and Women. He first entered the service of the London County Council thirty years ago as a part-time officer, while he was deputy medical officer of health for the borough of Stoke Newington. A year or two later he came on to the whole-time establishment of the L.C.C., and was immediately charged with some large constructive enterprises, having to do particularly with the provision of tuberculosis dispensaries, with facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of venereal diseases, and with all the undertakings which are comprehended in the term maternity and child welfare. In 1926 he succeeded the late Sir William Hamer as the head of the public health and school medical services of the Council. It was as a school doctor in 1909 that he first became associated with the Council's work. At that time the number of school children examined each year, the number treated, and the provision made for treatment facilities were almost negligible. To-day, or until the war interrupted this great social service, the number of examinations, routine or special, and of reinspections is not far short of half a million a year, and the number of children treated at the school treatment centres or elsewhere is well over 300,000. Under Sir Frederick Menzies's guidance the transfer to his Council of the duties imposed by the Local Government Act, 1929, took place with such smoothness, notwithstanding the complicated nature of the services to be transferred and the vast area and population to be covered, that hardly any of the transferred staff or the patients realized that in a night-actually on the last night of March, 1930-a great new hospital authority had come into existence. This work meant the taking over by the public health department of seventy-five hospitals, with a total accommodation of about 70,000 beds, provided for practically all classes of diseases, together with a staff of some 19,000, and in addition the whole of the Poor Law district medical work for the county and a vast ambulance organization. All the services in the sphere of medical administration, whether conducted under public health or Poor Law powers, were unified under the control of the county medical officer of health, and the immediate successful development and co-ordination of the transferred services in London was of immense value as an inspiration and model to the country as a whole. All who have come into contact with his vigorous personality and practical mind will hope that Sir Frederick Menzies in his retirement may find abundant opportunity for placing his knowledge and experience at the disposal of official and voluntary organizations. We can ill afford to lose one who was described by the public orator at the University of Edinburgh some years ago at the conferment of an honorary degree as " one of the foremost exponents of preventive medicine in this country."

homeshaping the systemvoluntary hospitals poor law infirmariesmedical schoolsfever hospitalsproblems & solutionsshaping the future
Inter-war yearsregions & districtsthe EMSBevanhospital developmentrationalisationstringencydistricts to trustsoverview