The Socialist Doctor 5

October 1932

Editorial Notes

It is three months since our last number appeared, the interval being due to a variety of circumstances, but chiefly to a lack of news. Members have not responded to our invitation to send in news and opinions. We would welcome both; they would make it easier to produce this journal with regularity.

This issue is concerned very largely with the activities, not so much of the Socialist Medical Association, as of certain of its members. As will be seen, some of them have been very active and have carried our plans forward very considerably.

There is a certain feeling in the political world that sudden developments may change our whole outlook on affairs. The Association may find it more than ever necessary to have its plan for a State Medical Service worked out in every detail.

Amongst other things, we would like to make some effort to put “The Socialist Doctor” upon a more permanent basis. Will you let us know your opinion of it, or make suggestions as to its improvement? Although it is rather late to do so, our members will wish to congratulate our President, Mr. Somerville Hastings, on his remarkable success in the Mile End bye-election for the London County Council. Having already served on Committees of the L.C.C. as a co-opted member, he should now be able to stress the need, for a fuller medical service in the Council itself.

The Labour Party Conference

For the first time in its history the Labour Party Conference at Leicester, was addressed by the official representative of a Socialist medical organisation, when our President moved the resolution standing in our name, viz., “That in the opinion of this Conference the health needs of the country can only be effectively provided by the establishment of a complete State Medical Service, giving everything necessary for the prevention and treatment of disease, free and open to all; and that the National Executive Committee be requested to report upon the subject, particularly in its relations to the Social Services generally”.

There were three other resolutions dealing with the same subject, but the Association was successful in obtaining the withdrawal of all these in favour of its own resolution. This was proposed on Friday, October 7th, by the President, and seconded, by Dr. Esther Rickards representing the London Labour Party at the Conference. Dr. Rickards, in an excellent speech, pointed out the necessity for more being done for the health of the people, and stressed especially the need for an efficient State Service to deal with maternity, which as she expressed it, is the most dangerous of all trades.

Very little time was permitted for discussion, but one delegate wished to know what we were intending to do with the voluntary hospitals. The resolution was agreed to without any dissentients, so that the establishment of a complete State Medical Service now becomes definitely part of the programme of the Labour Party.

The President’s Speech

Mr. Somerville Hastings in moving the above resolution pointed out that recently the Conference had repeatedly reaffirmed its opinion that private enterprise had failed, and that the only hope for the future was through Socialism. He went on to say that whatever else we could afford to leave in the hands of private enterprise, it was impossible to leave the health of the people in this precarious position; he pointed out that ill health was an enormous loss to the nation In terms of happiness, efficiency and productive power, and that unhealthy people were themselves a danger to the State. He stressed the fact that really efficient treatment was often complicated and expensive and in consequence the very people who needed it most were not infrequently unable to obtain it. He believed that a State Medical Service would enable much more to be done to prevent disease, as every practitioner in the Service would be concerned with prevention.

He pointed out that the State at present provides free and efficient treatment for lunatics, criminals and sufferers from V.D., but if an honest citizen, even though he be an insured person, breaks his leg or suffers from appendicitis or any disease beyond the capacity of his panel practitioner, he has, in most cases, either to pay for treatment, go cap in hand to a voluntary hospital, or go without, and in any case there is no assurance that the treatment be obtains will be of the best.

In 1870 it was recognised that private enterprise had failed in connection with education, and the country decided to offer education to every child. He was of opinion, however, that health was more important even than education. He wished to stress the fact that elementary education was offered free of cost to all, and he wanted the service of the State in health to be offered free to all as well, as a Service for one class only, especially the less well-to-do, was liable to be inefficient.

Mr. Hastings pointed out that the Socialist Medical Association and the Public Health Advisory Committee of the Labour Party had prepared a scheme for a State Medical Service, and the result of their deliberations was set forth in a little pamphlet entitled “The People’s Health”, published by the Labour Party. He did not think a better scheme could be devised, but he wished to give the Executive of the Party the opportunity of making the attempt.

In conclusion he pointed out that the Socialist Medical Association had been formed mainly to advocate a State Medical Service, and that all its members were looking to the Conference for their help, so that the establishment of a State Medical Service might become definitely a part of the programme of the Party.

International Medical Conference

At the end of August an International Medical Conference was held at Amsterdam as part of the Anti-War Congress, and was attended by doctors from almost all European countries. Dr. Bushnell represented Britain, carrying greetings from both the S.M.A. and the Socialist Workers National Health Council. The Conference heard the views of delegates from each country, and an international appeal against war was unanimously adopted, and the doctors undertook the obligation to carry out educational work against the evils of war and impending gas horrors. A committee was set up in Berlin and Paris to continue the collec­tion of evidence and to direct the campaign among doctors, against war.

The meeting expressed its desire to meet in London in 1933, and Dr. Bushnell is to place the matter before the S.M.A. for consideration.

Health Education Tours

The S.W.N.H.C. has arranged a series of visits, some of which have already taken place with the object of acquainting its members with details of health services as they exist at present, and of the developments which will be possible under Socialism. Dr. Bushnell of 88 Blackfriars Road, S.E.1. is in charge and will welcome enquiries.

Here are some of the visits already arranged.

Oct 26, Maternity & Child Welfare centre, Chevening Rd, (corner of Naval Hospital Cemetery) Woolwich Road, Greenwich. Mothers & Children.

Nov 2nd 9am The Hospital for Sick Children, Gt.Ormond St, W.C.I. Infants

Nov 9 School Children

  • 12. noon Old Church Road, Nursery School, Commercial Road, East,, Stepney, ii, 1.
  • 2pm Poplar Medical Treatment Centre, 69 East India Dock Road, E.14.
  • 3.30pm Stepney Borough Council Maternity & Child Welfare Clinic.

Nov 16, 2.45 Town Hall, Patriot Sq, Bethnal Green, E.2. Public Health

Nov 23, 2.45 Home Office, Industrial Museum, 97 Horseferry Rd, Westminster, S.W. Industrial Diseases.

We have a request from the workers of Taunton, Somerset, to put them in touch with a socialist doctor who might be prepared to set up practice in that town. Class-feeling is, apparently, very strong, and it is felt that only a socialist will give the working-class a fair deal in certain health matters. If anyone interested will communicate with us, we will put him in touch with the Taunton enquirer.