Cottage Hospital - Before Cottage Hospitals

Before Cottage Hospitals

Following King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536-40 only a few hospitals remained in use, St Thomas’, St Bartholomew’s, the Bethlehem Hospital for the insane and two Lock Hospitals for the treatment of syphilis. From the mid-16th Century until the Voluntary Hospital Movement in the early part of the 18th Century there was a dearth of hospital care in the UK. The first voluntary hospital created to provide free care through the philanthropic action of doctors and surgeons for the ill poor was The French Hospital in Finsbury, London started by Huguenot immigrants. The movement developed with the opening of The Westminster Hospital near St James’ Park. This was followed by the commissioning of St George’s Hospital at Hyde Park Corner. Gradually over the next 50 years voluntary hospital were built across the UK with a larger number in the south of England, although one of the largest voluntary hospitals opened in Edinburgh in 1729. Funding was problematic in the early years as the development of voluntary hospitals competed with government, county and local funding for the provision of care under the Poor Law Acts of 1722 and 1782. The County Hospitals received enormous public charity support. Alongside these care facilities were dispensaries. Accommodated in a single building they provided what is now called out-patient and day-patient care. Medicines (termed ‘physics’) were prescribed, minor surgical procedures as well as cupping and bleeding were carried out, the patient returning to their home after treatment.

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