‘“It’s a truism that public health is a purchasable commodity”: Municipal healthcare in Inter-war Belfast’


Sean Lucey
(Queen’s University Belfast)

Municipal medicine and public health has been seen as a failure in Belfast and Northern Ireland/ North of Ireland prior to the introduction of the National Health Service. The recent British historiography on the performance of public health providers, particularly in the municipal sectors, has challenged similar negative understandings. This paper argues that a more positive picture is applicable to Belfast. It demonstrates that although Belfast was one of the unhealthiest cities in the United Kingdom, attempts were initiated to expand municipal personal health services. Concentrating on maternity and child welfare provision; controversial due to the city’s high infant and maternal mortality rates; the paper highlights how Belfast’s voluntary hospital sector and the continued existence of the poor law undermined municipal expansion. These two sectors expanded demonstrating that while municipal medicine remained modest, other fields were more dynamic indicating the existence of a strong mixed economy of healthcare.

Thursday, 23rd January 2014, 12.45 pm – 2.00 pm
Venue: LG7, Keppel Street Building