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P.131-138 notes on Medical Services in Wartime

The active promotion of modernizing medicine was part of the medical war effort.
Specialists were called in to review existing conditions + recommend improvements.

- Shortcomings were found esp in radiography, anesthesia + this led to attempts to update
facilities/technologies in hospitals under EMS control.

The specialists were shocked by how old fashioned the hospitals were. Poverty, tradition and
distance from the great teaching/research hospitals left many hospitals like they were in the
Victorian period. Lacked Pathology labs.

The solution = send London doctors around to provincial hospitals to spread new practices.
By 1945, clinical pathology had established itself in hospital practice across the country.

In radiography + anaesthetic services there were deficiencies.

= severe shortage of personnel + training courses became a rapid solution.

Due to these measures radiography + anaesthetic became recognized as specialist occupations.

WW2 was MORE IMPORTANT than WW1 in establishing the relevance of medical specialists.
Doctors had experience from WW1 techniques and could advance it. In 1939-1940 consultants/
specialists spread the standards + expectations of modern medicine & hospital culture.


1914-1918 – 700,000 men killed in active service

1939-1945 – 264,000 men killed in active service.

Losses in WW2 were about half of the losses in WW1.

In 1939-40, tanks/aircraft played a massive role whereas they didn’t in WW1.

In WW2, shells were replaced by aerial bombs, ground vehicles had long range guns + at sea
there were submarines + torpedos.
In WW2, royal navy & air force played much greater role = for 1st time casualties outnumbered

In WW2 orthopaedic surgeons found themselves replaced by plastic surgeons & were left with
uninteresting sprains or fractures.

Plastic surgery had been developing as well as cardiologists, thoracic surgeons and burns
specialists. Simple wounds such as sword/ hand guns had disappeared… instead = complicated
wounds such as explosive shells, bombs, mortars, grenades and landmines.
Motorised transport had bought new emergencies such as by crashes, overturning vehicles
leading to crush wounds for the thoracic surgeons. The careless use of petrol in cooking &
cleaning had led to many more cases of burns.

Death + sickness rates had definitely increased due to the conditions in the immediate theatre of

From beginning of WW2 psychiatry = important for civilians + training of fighting.

Fear, anxiety swamped people. Psychiatric disorders were the largest cause of discharge from the
services. 118,000 men and women were discharged between September 1939 and June 1944.

The EHS were detailed to return forces ASAP & therefore forces received short term forceful
treatment although it was supportive. Stresses of war often had long term serious consequences.

Chemical pathology was the field where medicine made its biggest contribution to WW2.
Discovery of drug penicillin = destroyed wound infections & became known as a ‘miracle drug’.
Was also a morale booster. It was 1st true antibiotic to be discovered.

The prod. of the drug to match the needs of the war was only achieved through mass production
techniques in America. Items such as needles, tablets, operating tables = transported from
America to ease shortages in Britain.
- self sufficiency was also encouraged.
→Women’s volunteer groups made essentials for hospitals as well as making hates, scarves etc
for the soldiers.

The Medical Supplies Branch of the London County Council- organized supplies & over the
period of the war over 80 % of the medical supplies were obtained through this council in


There was an immense effort of organization & endurance in WW2.

General level of health may have risen but Britain was a weary country in 1945. Stricter
rationing deepened the weariness.

- Medicine contributed in many ways to the war effort = the new treatment to burns & crush
injuries + new medical technologies such as blood transfusions.

WW2 was in many respects a specialist war in terms of warfare + civil defence. The medical
specialists played a significant part in maintaining the nation’s health and fitness between 1939 +
1945 but they also took every opportunity to use that experience for political ends in furthering
the interests of their own disciplines.