Care of frail older people provides an example. Many were cared for in the old Poor Law infirmaries which had become the responsibility of local authorities by the early decades of the twentieth century. These tended to be considered, by patients, doctors and nurses alike, as very much second class to voluntary aided hospitals (Timmins, 1996, p. 106). Nevertheless, even within the voluntary hospitals older people often fared least well, living for years on ‘back wards’ allocated for the ‘chronic sick’. Many of these wards existed well into the 1950s and became the subject of exposures and critical comment, particularly following the efforts of Dr Marjorie Warren who campaigned among the medical profession for the recognition of geriatric medicine as a speciality. She wrote in 1946:
It is surprising that the medical profession has been so long in awakening to its responsibilities towards the chronic sick and the aged, and that the country at large should have been content to do so little for this section of the community. Today, owing to the ageing of the population, the general shortage of nurses and domestic help … and the fact that more women are employed … the problem has reached enormous dimensions …To all who have studied the subject it is obvious that the specialised care and treatment of these folk is of great economic importance and calls for immediate attention.
(Quoted in Evers, 1993, p. 320)
Marjorie Warren targeted doctors who she felt neglected older people in the infirmaries because they were poor and suffering from conditions requiring lengthy treatment for which often there was no cure. The first Chair of Geriatric Medicine was set up in the late 1960s in Glasgow, a few years after Marjorie Warren's death (Evers, 1993, p. 323).