BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in February 2004We've left it here for reference.More information

15 September 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
Legacies - Wiltshire

BBC Homepage
 Legacies
 UK Index
 Wiltshire
 Article
Gallery
Listings
Your stories
 Archive
 Site Info
 BBC History
 Where I Live

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 
Work
A model for the NHS?

Foundry
The foundry at Swindon
© STEAM - Museum of the GWR, Swindon
A curious anomaly existed at the railway works which made it in the interest of the employees and the surgeon himself to create some sort of medical provision. As Gooch points out in his letter, the normal procedure was for the company to pay the doctor’s fees if an accident happened at work.

However, for reasons not specified, this was not the case at Swindon. Instead, the bill was either picked up by the employee himself or the doctor went without pay. In the case of a fatal accident, it was impossible for the employee to pay. His family, probably facing destitution with the loss of their breadwinner, would perhaps be unwilling to fork out for a hefty bill. Gooch believed the benefits to the men were obvious:

“It is not a gift to the doctor that I ask but that the men may be relieved from the cost of numerous accidents, leaving them still to support their own sick, which, I fear, will be a heavy matter this winter as amongst other misfortunes we have some very bad cases of smallpox in the village.”

Convinced by Gooch’s case, the Directors agreed and the Medical Fund came into being in December of 1847. The Directors agreed to allow the surgeon Mr Rae to live rent free in a cottage owned by the company.

Development of the GWR fund

Waiting room
This room must have seen many GWR employees pass through its doors!
© STEAM - Museum of the GWR, Swindon
The aim of the new medical fund was to: “provide medicine and attendance to the men employed in the Works of the Great Western Railway at Swindon and their wives and families.” The fund remained compulsory subscription for GWR employees until the Insurance Act of 1911 made its membership voluntary. The amount paid was decided by a sliding scale that took into account the employee’s salary and marital status, it ranged from a maximum of 4d to a minimum of 11/2 d a week.

Though the provision of health care is second nature to us now, the GWR was a radical departure from accepted practise. Until the NHS was formed in 1947, it was down to the individual or their family to pay for medicine and the attendance of a doctor. The creation of the GWR was a remarkable step towards the idea of collective social responsibility.


Pages: Previous [ 1, 2, 3, 4 ] Next


Your comments




Print this page
Archive
Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

Read more >
Internet Links
STEAM, Museum of the Great Western Railway
The Great Western Archive
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Web sites.
Perth and Tayside
Keiller's marmalade jar
Related Stories
"Hell-raising" nailers in Belper
Fish and ships on Jersey's coast
The professional bodysnatchers




About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy