Health Care in the 1950s

Sometimes while cataloging, one will find items that relate directly to current events.  That was the case last week when I discovered a 1962 letter discussing the British health care system.  In 1958, Thomas E. and Quinlan H. Quisenberry, an Illinois couple with Kentucky roots, traveled to Great Britain.  In the "International Airport," now Heathrow, Quinlan suffered a heart attack and was treated in an English hospital.  Four years later, Thomas Quisenberry wrote to a family friend about Quinlan's experience with British health care.

She spent almost a month in the hospital which serves the International Airport, in which it may be interesting for you to know all services were provided and there was no way in which an American visitor could make any payment although we were permitted anonymously to make a gift to provide some new equipment for the nurses’ tearoom.  With her interest in people and the fact that she was an ambulatory case, Quin found her stay an enormous study in a cross section of English people, and both of us came away with an enormous respect for what is contemptuously referred to here as socialized medicine.  Equipment and facilities may be regarded as inferior to what we have here but free of hospital plans, Blue Cross and all the rest, the standard of medical care and above all the relationship of doctors and staff to patients, where there were no private rooms and wards were community ones, showed a spirit of interest in each other that made for one of the most extraordinary relationships I have ever seen in a hospital.

Quinlan recovered and was able to return to the United States.  Unfortunately, she died later that summer from heart problems.

Filson Historical

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