HC Deb 14 August 1857 vol 147 cc1683-6

said, he must apologize for again touching on a subject which came nearer home—namely, the condition of Netley Hospital. Some time since, a meeting of doctors was held in Southampton, in respect to the health of Southampton Water; and the meeting was so unanimous on the subject of the sanitary virtues of the place that the only doubt in the case was how doctors were so unanimous. The Prime Minister on a former occasion, too, in reply to a question from the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Weguelin), had leaped up with more than his usual agility, and declared that nothing could surpass the climate for salubrity; and, certainly, if the health of the noble Lord was due to it, he (Mr. A. Stafford) was satisfied, and had nothing more to say. He (Mr. A. Stafford) had never attached much importance to the particular locality of the hospital: since its foundation there had been alterations made at a considerable expense—an esplanade had been formed which tended somewhat to diminish the influence of the mud banks and to alleviate those evils which would not occur if the hospital had been placed higher up. But there were other evils accruing every day, to which he begged to call the attention of the noble Lord. He (Mr. A. Stafford) had not given notice of his question to the Under Secretary for War, because he knew well the reply he should receive, and he could not help saying that if the War-Office was as skilful in constructing an hospital as it was in drawing up a Report, this country might have one of the finest hospitals in the world. The Report quoted Miss Nightingale as an authority in favour of the hospital, but he (Mr. A. Stafford) called on the House to suspend its judgment until the documents which Miss Nightingale had put in before the Commission of the Army Medical Department were laid before the House. There was one subject brought before the Committee which they had decided contrary to the chief evidence produced with reference to it. He asked no promise from the noble Lord on that occasion, but he entreated him, in reference to this subject, to call to his aid Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Parkes, and ascertain their views. The wards, as they stood, only held eight or nine patients; he (Mr. A. Stafford) asked the noble Lord to consider if every two of these wards could not be converted into one. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Tite) had recommended that the building should not be proceeded with until further inquiry should be made as to the principle on which it was constructed. Every person who knew anything of hospitals was well aware of the importance of large airy wards. In small wards the soldiers were thrown too much together, and were too much affected by one another's state of health; pained or distressed by one another's death; while they wanted that variety of incident which was afforded them when a larger number were assembled together. At Scutari it was a practice never to leave two sick soldiers long near one another; but to place new-comers in the beds as often as possible, and to change the patient's ward as often as it could be changed. If there were twenty-four or twenty-five in a ward, it would be impossible for the soldiers to group themselves, and the death of any one would not so seriously affect the others as in the smaller wards. There was another argument for the larger ward, namely, that it was three times less trouble for the nurses to superintend and inspect them, and as the desire of all was to have lady nurses in the hospitals as much as possible, this saving of time and trouble was very important. As at present arranged, Netley Hospital, he had been told on the very highest authority, rendered nursing difficult and inspection impossible; it was in fact described as "inadministrable," to coin a word for the occasion. He therefore, confidently asked the noble Lord to re-open the question to ascertain if it was not possible even at a considerable outlay to prevent this hospital from being a disgrace to the country. In a military hospital he had visited at Naples there was not a single ward with less than thirty patients, and he believed that Netley hospital, as contrasted with it, would be fifty years behind. He entreated the noble Lord to afford an opportunity for the re-consideration of this question. By so doing the health of the soldiers would be studied, and a building would be erected which might be pointed to by Englishmen without shame.


said, that he agreed with the hon. Gentleman, that unless the hospital could be materially altered it would neither be creditable to the country nor useful. He spoke not only with regard to the enormous outlay, which would be not less than £25,000, but also on the score of humanity. The principal alteration required was in the wards, which ought to be capable of containing from thirty to thirty-two men, giving 2,000 cubic feet to each patient, On the ground floor there were ten wards capable of containing only two patients each. These rooms were fifteen feet by thirteen, and had no external air or light, being lighted from the corridor. He could not possibly conceive for what purpose these rooms had been constructed. There were also eight similar rooms on each of the floors above. With regard to the nine bedded rooms he would suggest the propriety of removing the partition walls and making two rooms into one. He hoped the French system would be adopted. In a French hospital there was an entrance hall leading to a large garden. In the case of the Hospital do Nord, the garden was an acre and a half in extent. Then there were what were called pavilions on each side, separated by planted walks fifty feet wide. The windows opened into the air, and there was no attempt at artificial ventilation. The mischief of the plan at Netley was that the contaminated air would be blown into the building. So thoroughly were the French physicians convinced of the necessity of free circulation, that at Lyons, where there were 1,800 beds, and where 200 sœurs de charité were employed, they placed some fever cases of unusual virulence under the great dome, so that they might have around the patients a large body of circumambient air. He (Mr. Tite) had seen the hospital of Milan with its 3,000 beds; those of Genoa and Lyons with their 1,800 beds each, and the Hospital du Nord at Paris, to which he had alluded, and the result had been to convince him that the natural system of ventilation was the best. In Netley he could not understand what was intended, for the great ventilating shaft was placed over the lobby entrance to the chapel. Let them have windows that would open, and let each patient have the 2,000 cubic feet of space allowed in the French hospitals, and the Netley Hospital would not be subject to the reproach which at present attached to such buildings in England. He would, therefore earnestly press on the attention of the Government the arguments which had been urged by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Stafford). He entreated them to stop this work before it went any further. The mistake was remediable now, but ere long it would be irremediable. What they wanted was the assistance of an experienced architect, accustomed to hospital arrangements. It was most important in a national point of view, when they were about to expend a quarter of a million on the erection of a hospital, that they should avoid the commission of serious blunders.