[from "The Birth of a Service", 2008]


The solution was now clear, and, in retrospect, fairly logical. The new authority was to be the Mental Hospital Board, who at least had practical experience of running a hospital, and renamed as the Health Services Board. The Mannin Infirmary, for which the Board had had responsibility under the Poor Relief Acts, was to be passed to the Board of Social Services. The duties of the collection of rates, under the provisions of the Rates Bill, to be dealt with in the same legislative session, were to go to the Assessment Board. The latter proved to present no difficulty, as it transpired that the operation of the Hospital, and the rate collecting, had for many years been run as separate functions. Accordingly, on the 24th. February 1948, the Legislative Council gave the Health Services Board Bill all three readings, and passed it to the Keys, who were also sitting that day, with a request that they should deal with it similarly. They refused to give it its second reading. It was again put to them on 2nd. March, when initially they refused to consider it at all, as it was not on the agenda, and many of the members had not brought their copies for reference. Some pressure must have been brought to bear, however, because later in the sitting it was put to them again, and they gave it all three readings, but not before they had introduced some amendments re-defining the Board's membership. As these made it, in effect, a new Bill, it had to go back to the Council, who on 4th. March again gave it its three readings. Royal Assent was announced to Tynwald on 15th. June.

Meanwhile, preparation of the Isle of Man Health Services Bill had been having urgent attention, although it could hardly be said to have been proceeding apace, in view of the discussions and representations, which would be beyond the scope of a book of this size to go into in detail. It was first before the Legislative Council on 27th. April, when, before even starting on the first reading, they had appearances by counsel for the Medical Society, the Dental Association, and the Corrin Trustees. The Medical Society's main concern was the possible restriction on the sale of practices, which had still not been settled in England, and the necessary protection of their interests. The dentists similarly wished to have some regulation of the number of dentists practising under the scheme. The most interesting, however, was the question raised by the Corrin Trustees, regarding the endowments of the not-yet-existing Corrin Hospital in Peel. The Trust, which had the purpose of establishing a hospital in the West, had, in 1938, organised their funds and held preliminary briefings with their architects, but had had to suspend progress on the outbreak of war, and had not yet taken any further steps. As the Bill appeared to give the Board certain powers to take over, not only the voluntary hospitals, but their endowments, could they take over the endowments of a hospital which did not, in fact, exist?

The Council went on to the second reading on 11th. May, when again they had before them counsel for the Medical Society, the Opticians' Association, and the Corrin Trust. This time, counsel for the doctors was able to inform members that it had now been decided that the sale of practices was to be prohibited in England from July, and the general practitioners on the Island wanted the same to apply. The opticians were pleased to co-operate, except that they did not like the implication that they would be obliged to practice in Health Centres, when these might be established, rather than their own premises. The Corrin Trustees were supplying further information. The Council adjourned until 1st. June, when they gave the Bill its second and third readings.

It then went to the Keys on 22nd. June, for its first reading, and its second reading and clauses stage on 29th. June, when there were appearances by counsel for the Medical Society, the opticians, the dentists, and the Corrin Trust. This time the doctors' concern was for the date by which general practitioners had to have been in practice to qualify for inclusion. As it stood, this was to have been 1st. January, 1947, but two doctors had started a practice in Ballasalla in December 1947. This was resolved by the alteration of the date to 5th. July 1948. Counsel for the dentists and opticians wished members to know that both professions were satisfied with the amendments which had been made, and the assurances given. The Corrin Trustees faced an uncertain future, but this appears to have been resolved on the understanding that endowments were for use for and in a hospital; a building fund was for that specific purpose, and until a hospital might be built the Board could have no interest. The clauses were completed, and the third reading given on 13th. July.

The Keys had introduced amendments necessitating the Bill making a further appearance before the Legislative Council on 27th. July, who gave it their urgent attention, making some further small amendments, to which the Keys gave their final agreement on 10th. August.

The Bill had two interesting and unusual provisions. The first, as the Health Service was to start on 5th.July, and the Act would have no force until the announcement to Tynwald of the Royal Assent (in fact, the 16th. November) Clause 64 provided that it could be made retrospective to 5th. July. The second, because of the haste with which it had been prepared, which engendered the possibility of there being existing legislation which, being overlooked, might conflict, Clause 62 was a cover-all which, in effect, could simply render such considerations null and void.

In the meantime, the National Health Service had duly started on 5th. July, but rather patchily. During the debate in the Council on 27th. July, when reference was made to the urgency of dealing with the Bill because the Service was already in operation, a member queried if this was so on the grounds that, as he was now paying 9/1d. a week (45p.), he thought that he had better register, and had approached two doctors, only to be told that they were still making up their minds whether to join or not! Nor was there a great rush to the doctors' on the great day by an eager public, because, being Tynwald Day, apart from accident and emergencies the doctors were on holiday!

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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
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