The Socialist Doctor 4

June 1932

Editorial Notes

It was generally recognised that whatever its decisions the Annual General Meeting would be of vital importance, but few can have anticipated that it would be in every way, such a success. From 5 p.m. on Saturday, until 7 p.m. on Sunday, there was never a dull minute. No attempt will be made here to give even a summary of the decisions come to, as most of them involve reconsideration by the Executive, and will be circulated to members when completed.

There was much talk (perhaps too much) of gradualism, evolution and reform, but even those who were most suspicious of anything that involved more than one step before reaching the ultimate goal (on which there seemed to be no disagreement) were compelled to admit that the A.G.M. did move the Association forward.

But it was very apparent that many members of the Association, in common with the rest of the Socialist movement, are very much concerned with the question of ‘pace’ in socialist advance. Some obviously regarded it as fundamental that we should decide, here and now, at what speed changes must take place. But the general feeling appeared to be that while everyone desired to advance at the maximum rate, they would nevertheless be prepared to accept any advance at any time.

The Press did not give the meeting very much space, but certain parts did receive attention. The Editor of the “Socialist Doctor” will see most of the London newspapers likely to give us much publicity, but is anxious to be kept in touch with any mention of the S.M.A. in other papers.

He will welcome news of any medical meeting at which a State Medical Service is discussed. It is hoped that members will send to the Editor (c/o the Secretary), their views on any point dealt with here on which they disagree with the opinion expressed.

The Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting was held on Saturday and Sunday, May 28th and 29th, and all sessions were well attended. Most encouraging of all was the large number of members from outside London who attended one or more of the sessions. Beginning at five o’clock on the Saturday, routine business was first taken, and was completed by 7 p.m. The Executive report for the year was adopted except for the reference to the Socialist Workers’ National Health Council, which was sent back to the Executive, as it was felt that the action of that body in publishing an attack on the Research Sub-Committee’s Report was a serious blow at the friendly relations existing between the two organisations. The President and other Officers were then re-elected unanimously.

At seven o’clock the company adjourned for the first Annual Dinner of the S.M.A. which proved to be a success in every way. The National Labour Club Staff had provided a very pleasant dinner, and the whole company was in a very cheerful mood. The visitors included many people well-known both in socialist and medical circles. The toast of the S.M.A. was proposed by the Rt. Hon. Arthur Greenwood, M.P., who had some very interesting things to say on the possibilities of a State Medical Service, and on the part which our Association could play. Our Secretary, Dr. Brook, replied in a speech which summarised in excellent fashion the history of the S.M.A., its work, and the probable effect it would have on a future Labour Minister of Health.

Dr. Drummond Shiels then proposed the health of “The Guests” and mentioned most of them in a speech which was very well received. Miss Sylvia Pankhurst, representing the S.W.N.H.C, first replied and made an appeal to the S.M.A, to remember in particular the urgent need for a Maternity Service in this country. The second reply to the toast was made by Mr.J.Bromley, Chairman, T.U.C., in a speech which admirably combined some sound socialist advice with a number of very witty after-dinner stories.

On Sunday at 10 a.m. the President gave his address on “Medical Education” and the meeting then began its consideration of the Research Sub-Committee’s scheme for a State Medical Service. A general expression of opinions was first allowed, and then a detailed discussion took place. On the first section of the Report, “Principles”, there was little disagreement, and this was passed before lunch. The second section, “The Ideal Service”, raised keen arguments on every side, and certain parts were referred back to the Sub-Committee with instructions to include most of the Memorandum put forward by the Liverpool branch. The third section on “The Steps to be Taken”, was the most hotly contested and many detailed amendments were passed. When a vote was taken on any point, the official position was usually carried by an overwhelming majority, but few votes were needed as, after discussion, a very large measure of agreement was finally reached. The speaking was spread over a large number of members, but Dr. Bushnell had to face the most concentrated opposition, and had to be content with forcing only a few amendments. By tea-time on the Sunday the meeting had completed its labours and adjourned, meeting at 5 o’clock for Dr. Salter’s lecture with which the meeting concluded.

“Health Propaganda”

Dr. A. Salter’s lecture on this subject did not receive the audience it deserved as it was most interesting and illustrated by three cinema films such as are used in Bermondsey. Having traced something of the development of Public Health legislation, the speaker then indicated to what extent local authorities could carry out health propaganda, and suggested the lines this might take. He quoted some figures from the results in Bermondsey to show the effect on health statistics of continuous propaganda, and gave details of how it had been carried out in that Borough.

The audience then saw three of the films used in this work, two of them made by Dr. Connan, M.O.H, and Mr.Bush, who attended to superintend their showing.

Health Services in Scotland

That some change in the medical service of the country must take place soon is so universally recognised that the subject is being discussed everywhere. Recently an official meeting has been held to consider the needs of Scotland, and it was attended by representatives of the Department of Health, the British Medical Association, and many local Authorities. After a lengthy discussion it was finally agreed that present services were inadequate and must be altered. A Committee of representatives of all sections attending the conference was formed, and are to meet at once. They are asked to draft a scheme or schemes, which “might be submitted to local authorities for their guidance”.

Periodical Medical Examination Rejected

The annual congress of the Co-operative Women’s Guild has been discussing periodical medical examination, and have rejected a resolution to make it compulsory on every citizen. The London Branch which put forward the resolution, said that it was the only way to eradicate cancer and consumption, but strong opposition was expressed to compulsion. It was also feared that if this was made law, healthy people would be used for experimental purposes. The resolution received little support, but part of the opposition may have arisen from the wording of the resolution which, it is obvious, deals with only a very small part of the reform necessary if disease is to be prevented.

The Supplement to the British Medical Journal for June 4th, contains an article on “A National Maternity Service” by Prof, J. Munro Kerr which is another indication of the interest being taken in new ideas of medical service. The scheme proposed is not a socialist one, but its suggestions on the medical aspects of the position deserve attention.

Labour Party Conference

The President, Mr. Somerville Hastings, was appointed by the A.G.M, as delegate to the next Labour Party Conference, and a resolution on the need for a national health service is to be put before the Labour Party in the name of the Association. Whatever its fate, it is noteworthy that this is the first time a body representing medical opinion has been able to table a resolution for the Labour Party’s consideration.

T.U.C, and a National Health Service

A Committee has presented a report to the T.U.C. on the present position of Welfare Schemes In this country, and there is one section of interest to the S.M.A. The report states that welfare committees have many activities, and continues that “some of these activities are not in the interests of the community as a whole”. As an example it says that if medical treatment becomes developed in every firm having a welfare scheme “it is bound to retard progress towards that unified system of complete and adequate national health services which must be regarded as the ideal”.