Sunday, 12 August 2012

Voluntary Hospitals Database

At present I'm bent over a 1928 edition of the General Nursing Council Register of nurses, doing what can loosely be described as 'messing about' with lists and databases.  As it runs to more than 2,000 pages, that's likely to be a lot of messing about. It lists all trained nurses who were registered with the GNC at that time as fit to practice, with details of their training hospitals and dates. Included are nurses who trained as early as the 1880s and also those who had just completed their training at the end of 1927, so there must have been many changes in hospitals during that period. Some of the hospitals are still household names today - places like Guy's, St. Thomas' and St. Bartholomew's Hospitals, London; Manchester Royal Infirmary, and Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge.  But as hospitals in general were much smaller at that time, it struck me that some of the many hundreds of hospitals mentioned in my register must have been very tiny indeed. Those that had just a couple of wards and a small medical and nursing staff probably accepted just one or two girls each year as new probationers, and the figures began to intrigue me.

While browsing the web for inspiration I came across the Voluntary Hospitals Database, which is a real treasure trove, beautifully and intricately researched and presented, which answers many of the questions about hospitals and their staff at various periods during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It gives the number of beds, average bed occupancy, details of how many doctors, trained nurses and untrained probationers there were, and information about various aspects of expenditure. For some hospitals it's possible to track the increase in both patients and staff over many decades. I do realise that you probably need to be the sort of person who wears six anoraks at a time to appreciate its beauty, but well worth a look even for those who are just in T-shirt and shorts.

Voluntary Hospitals Database

If you just start to zoom on the interactive map and drag it to the area you need, a list appears in the left-hand margin giving details for each hospital in the current view - it's very clever and a great way to waste some time.

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