When hospital care was the main alternative to family care: a survey in 1983

Anne McAreavy

In 2009 we speak of people with a learning difficulty living in their own home with support but in 1983, when this survey was done, no one talked in that way because the services were different.

This presentation starts in 1972, when a 480 bed 'subnormality hospital' (as it was then called) was opened in Wakefield, West Yorkshire to provide long term care for people from four local towns and for people who had been living locally in old hospitals. In 1983 a survey of 359 people living at Fieldhead Hospital was undertaken. The information collected was used to inform the planning process for future community care projects. The last person living at the hospital moved in 2004.

The presentation will describe who lived at the hospital. It is not their individual stories but the collective story of their lives: their age on admission, the support they needed, how they spent their time and the contact they had with family and friends.

By 1983 Fieldhead was known as a 'Mental Handicap' hospital and the patients admitted from 1972 were now called residents. There was a lot of emphasis on providing training in work skills, domestic skills and self help skills to enable people to become more independent. It was accepted that some people should leave hospital care but it was not yet accepted that everyone could live in a home of their own. There were 39 children still living in the hospital and two thirds of the residents had moved to live in hospital when they were children. Hospitals were intended to provide a home for life.

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