Editorials

With respect to old age

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7185.681 (Published 13 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:681

At last, the 1948 show

  1. Elaine Murphy, Chair
  1. City and Hackney Community Services NHS Trust, St Leonard's Primary Care Centre, London N1 5LZ

    The last royal commission to deliberate on the problems of funding long term care for elderly people, which reported in 1895,1 was a disaster from start to finish. Despite growing national prosperity and a falling bill for poor relief, workhouses and poor law infirmaries were rapidly filling up with destitute sick old folk. Thousands more were reliant on their children for the basics of life. Old people's dependence on the unforgiving poor law system was becoming a deeply unpopular and unacceptable indignity. The Prince of Wales, a member of the commission, withdrew his support because of the endless political squabbling in committee. Joseph Chamberlain and his “pro-universal old age pension group” submitted an angry minority report, and five other members inserted disaffected addenda of dissent. To cap it all the commission's unfortunate chairman, Lord Aberdare, died the day before the report was published.


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    Most members of that early commission were steeped in the culture of the poor law of 1834. They could not make the visionary leap into a world of planned personal pensions and therapeutically comfortable institutions, even when the mood of the public should have told then that some revolutionary thinking was required. With Respect to Old Age, the report of the recent …

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