On 24 November 1965 Lord Strabogli wrote to The Times. Public concern about the treatment of the elderly in hospitals had been growing, though apparently the government saw no problems.
In 1961 the Birmingham RHB published a report on its geriatric services. It said that “many were hospital slums that did no more than provide storage space for patients under conditions of considerable difficulty, and often unpleasantness, for the nursing staff”. Strabogli asked people to write to him with their experiences and the response was overwhelming. It was the tipping point in a two year struggle to get ministers to take the problem seriously.
AEGIS, Aid to Elderly in Government Institutions, was founded that month. Barbara Robb published Sans Everything in 1967. Stung by the criticisms, the government established an inquiry to disprove the allegations, but it merely confirmed that things were worse than had been imagined. A raft of scandals surfaced in hospitals for the elderly, the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped and led to the establishment of the Hospital Advisory Service and an overhaul of long stay care, root and branch.
- For a fuller account of the struggle, see www.nhshistory.net