“Incapable, elderly and sick"
In the nineteenth century, the elderly and chronically sick were too often left to the mercy of the workhouse and the Poor Law system. Here, conditions were squalid and facilities scant. A form of nursing care did exist in the workhouse, but was often delivered by older female inmates. Treatment of the elderly was fast becoming a national scandal. Following a barrage of bad press revealing the crowding, death and disease of the workhouses,the Local Government Act in 1929 saw the Poor Law disbanded. The municipal hospital system was established and local authorities became responsible for those in need of health care.
In 1936, Matron Eva Huggins was working alongside Geriatrician Dr Marjory Warren, at Middlesex County Hospital. They pioneered a change for both the elderly and chronically ill, providing proper diagnoses for those in their care and discharging people who did not need to be in hospital beds. Yet this pace of change was not universal. Despite attempts to improve the care of older people,accommodation continued to be substandard and ward equipment poor. As a profession, older people’s nursing struggled to detach itself from the low status reputation it had gained over the past century. There was no encouragement for bright young doctors and nurses to pursue older adult care. It was simply not a popular place to be.