A Century of Nursing in Formby

by B. Yorke – 24 May 2005

Today we all take for granted our excellent community nursing services, freely available in our own homes, to all who require them. In this issue, I would like to go back exactly 100 years to 1905 when skilled nursing was only available to those who could afford it. 

Formby Parish Priest, Monsignor Car, realised the need among the poor for such help as only a trained nurse could give; and on June 19, 1905, he spoke to a group of Formby ladies who formed a “Ladies Committee to collect subscriptions sufficient to maintain two District Nurses”. Thus the Formby District Nursing Ladies Committee was born. Fortunately a complete set of Minute Books have survived and they give an excellent social picture of life in Formby during the first half of the last century.

The aim of the Ladies Committee was to provide two District Nurses (holding Midwifery certificates) who would provide nursing services to all subscribers of one shilling or more. Non subscribers 6d a visit and maternity cases 13 shillings. “All fees both midwifery and other to be ready before the nurse is sent for”. It was decided that £125 per year should meet expenses. £30 each salary, £30 board and lodging and £2 .l0s. l0d for uniforms. The first big find raising event was a ball In Victoria Hall. Local churches were asked to give one ‘offertory’ a year.

The nurses had to give detailed and regular reports on their work and their behaviour was strictly controlled. One nurse was reprimanded for wearing her uniform when off duty. At first the nurses had to walk but later were provided with bicycles. It was not until 1947 that a car was provided. In the early years it is recorded that a nurse might attend a first illegitimate birth but must have the committee’s permission before attending a second!

In 1937 the committee opened a small maternity home in which “cases could be taken which would otherwise have to go to hospital, a great boon for mothers in Formby”. I wonder if any readers can remember where it was and how long it functioned? The committee at first put birth announcements in the Liverpool Echo if the parents had not already done so. In its first few years the committee were to record a big drop in infant mortality rates. In 1907, 544 maternity and 2,160 other visits were made and over the years the work increased.

Problems encountered by the committee are still being faced by medical charities today. When they held their first AGM in a church hall, so few people turned up that it was decided to revert back to the practice of holding it in a member’s house. I would be delighted to hear from readers with more memories of our district nursing service before 1948.