BackThe Dispensaries: Healthcare for the Poor Before the NHS | Michael Whitfield | New book, available to buy now!

In Michael Whitfield’s new book, The Dispensaries: Healthcare for the Poor Before the NHS, Ancoats Dispensary is one of many national dispensaries featured. Michael contacted Ancoats Dispensary Trust at the beginning of the year regarding Ancoats Dispensary, and we are thrilled that he has managed to create such a fascinating book!

About the Author

Michael Whitfield is a retired Bristol general practitioner who was a senior lecturer in general practice at the University of Bristol and has been writing about the history of medicine over the last ten years. His recent publications have included The Victorian Doctors of Victoria Square (2011) and a Short History of Academic General Practice in the UK Medical Schools 1948–2000 (with John Howie, 2011).

About Dispensaries: Healthcare for the Poor Before the NHS

Dispensaries were created in cities to look after poor sick people from about 1770 until the beginning of the NHS in 1948. They were created by relatively wealthy citizens who became subscribers to these institutions. They saw this as an act of philanthropy, and each subscriber was given a book of tickets that could be given to sick people to enable them to access the dispensary. Many doctors gave their services to the dispensaries freely, but an apothecary or, later on, a medical officer was employed in addition to run the dispensary and to visit the sick in their homes if they were unable to visit the dispensary.

The Dispensaries: Healthcare for the Poor Before the NHS is the first book to have been written that gives an overview of the creation of dispensaries and the reason they totally disappeared in 1948, although there are several booklets describing individual dispensaries. The dispensary system was supported by the majority report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law in 1909 but rejected on questionable grounds by the Minority Report upon which our welfare state has been based.

Currently, the NHS is in crisis. This book about a former healthcare system suggests ways in which our health service could be remodeled for the better.

Ordering a copy

You can purchase your copy of the book online by visiting the book’s website at You can also order direct from Dr. Whitfield by making your cheque payable to ‘Dr. M Whitfield’. The cost is £11.00 which includes postage and packaging. His address is:

Dr. Michael Whitfield

24 Hanbury Road