Mental Health Care in Modern England: The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum/St. Andrew's Hospital C. 1810-1998

By Steven Cherry | Go to book overview
Save to active project


Wartime and post-war crises, 1939—48

The association of 'total war', in which the civilian population is heavily and directly involved, with longer-term welfare arrangements is a familiar subject for historians. Links between the domestic war effort, the emergency organisation of national health services and the establishment of a welfare state in Britain are strong, if complex. 1 As the part of mental hospitals and their patients in this context is less obvious and local or grass-roots experiences are comparatively unexplored, St Andrew's offers the opportunity for a case study. There are fewer source materials, however, and wartime records were often compiled less accurately or comprehensively. Under the pressure of events, or from the need to pursue a particular agenda, the standard of 'on the spot' assessments may also have slipped. Recognising these deficiencies, this chapter aims to show how St Andrew's Hospital took on additional roles in adverse circumstances and the effect of upheavals and scarcity upon new, temporary and established residents. It suggests that overcrowding and staff shortages were so aggravated in wartime that they assumed crisis proportions in the early years of the National Health Service. Coping with these extraordinary difficulties whilst maintaining the semblance of routine was a demanding task for key hospital personnel. Yet they also began to appreciate that pressures for post-war reform, whilst not dealing fully and directly with mental health care, were nevertheless sweeping them towards an uncertain future.

In many respects the experience of mental hospitals and their patients in the Second World War resembled that of the asylums and their inmates in the First World War. Some hospitals were again evacuated and the essentials of accommodation, food, care and attention, and recreational space for patients were pared down, perhaps below officially acceptable minima, in the face of shortages and overcrowding. The national total of mental hospital patients fell from 133,000 in 1939 to 127,000 early in 1945 but these figures, which excluded armed forces' patients, reflected displacement by wartime Emergency Medical Service rather than any sudden improvement in treatments. Deprivation was one part of the war experience in which mental hospital patients fully participated, as reviewed in one hour of a parliamentary debate held in November 1945. Weekly maintenance costs per head averaged 30 shillings in mental hospitals and 90 shillings in general hospitals:

R. Lowe, The Welfare State in Britain since 1945, Macmillan, Basingstoke, 1993, offers a good introductory survey.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Mental Health Care in Modern England: The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum/St. Andrew's Hospital C. 1810-1998


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 335

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?