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NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives

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Research Guides

Tuberculosis




IMPORTANT - PLEASE READ BEFORE PROCEEDING

Because of the sensitive nature of much of the information they contain there is a 75 year closure period on all patient records (a 100 year closure period on records relating to minors). If you wish to consult patient records which are less than 75 years old you must apply to the Director of Public Health for Glasgow for permission. This application can be made through the NHSGGC Archivist.


Introduction

While steps were taken to combat other infectious diseases in the mid–nineteenth century tuberculosis was generally ignored, considered a by–product of the poverty that existed in large urban centres. Indeed it was not until the discovery of the tubercule bacillus in 1882 that tuberculosis was recognised as an infectious disease. In Glasgow in the late nineteenth century ‘consumption’ (pulmonary tuberculosis) was the most common form of the disease. Regulations introduced to improve the quality of food and drink helped combat non–pulmonary forms of tuberculosis but pulmonary tuberculosis presented a more complex problem.

The vast majority of cases of consumption in Glasgow in the late nineteenth century were treated in the Poor Law Hospitals. Once the infectious nature of the disease became apparent the voluntary hospitals became increasingly reluctant to take cases. Around the turn of the twentieth century special purpose–built wards for tuberculosis patients were introduced which allowed the disease to be treated in isolation. Treatments stressed the importance of good diet and fresh air. It was not until the introduction of streptomycin in 1947 that effective and reliable treatment of tuberculosis was possible.


Glasgow’s Mass Radiography Campaign, 1957

The improved housing conditions of the post–war years combined with the development of new drugs such as streptomycin led to the more effective treatment of tuberculosis. Throughout Britain mass radiography campaigns to identify tuberculosis sufferers took place with mobile units travelling from city to city. The campaign began in Glasgow on 11th March 1957. During the next five weeks 714,915 Glaswegians were x–rayed (76% of the population). 2,842 new cases of tuberculosis were identified and treated. The campaign was a huge feat of organisation with a large number of medical and clerical staff and volunteers involved.

The following collections contain material relating to the campaign:

  • Glasgow Corporation and Parish Council  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 19)
  • Western Regional Hospital Board  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 28)
  • Dr. John Geddes  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 14/5/7)

Hospitals

In Glasgow a number of hospitals treated tuberculosis patients. Some were specifically built for the purpose while others opened special tuberculosis wards. The following list refers to some of the material specifically relating to tuberculosis in the collections held by the Archive.


Bellshill Tuberculosis Dispensary  (NHSGGCA Ref: LK 35)

The dispensary was located at 96 Main Street, Bellshill, Lanarkshire and was maintained by Lanark County Council. The collection includes registers covering the period 1933–1963  (NHSGGCA Ref: LK 35/1/1–4) and case notes for 1951–1961  (NHSGGCA Ref: LK 35/2/1–11).


Belvidere Hospital  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 65)

Belvidere Infectious Diseases Hospital opened in 1871. Following incorporation into the NHS in 1948 the hospital underwent major diversification and began to treat patients with diseases including tuberculosis and polio. In 1959 the words ‘Infectious Diseases’ were dropped from its title. The collection includes registers of tuberculosis patients for the years 1945–1963  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 65/8/11–12).


Broomhill Hospital and Lanfine Home  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 31)

Broomhill Hospital opened in 1876 and catered for patients suffering from tuberculosis, cancer, chronic rheumatism and other incurable conditions. In 1904 the Lanfine Home for tuberculosis sufferers was added. The collection includes registers of patients for both institutions from the opening of Broomhill in 1876 to the 1940s  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 31/5/1–16) and a large collection of photographs  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 31/9/1–139).


Darnley Hospital  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 15)

Darnley opened in 1897 as an infectious disease hospital. It was later used for tuberculosis patients too. The collection includes case notes of tuberculosis patients covering the period 1935–57  (NHSGGCA Ref:  (Ref: HB 15/2/1).


Gartloch Hospital  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 1)

Although primarily a psychiatric hospital Gartloch also contributed to the treatment of tuberculosis in the city. A 50 bed tuberculosis sanitorium was built in 1902 which remained open until after World War II. The collection includes the original plans of the tuberculosis sanitorium from 1902  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 1/12/13/1–2) and lantern slides taken between 1905 and 1919  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 1/9/78, 98, 115, 130, 249, 268, 335). There are no medical records for tuberculosis patients present.


Mearnskirk Hospital  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 64)

Originally known as Mearnskirk Hospital for Children, this hospital was built to cater for tuberculosis patients. The hospital opened in 1930 with a capacity of 500 beds. Adult pulmonary tuberculosis patients began to be admitted in the late 1930s. The collection includes a set of plans of the hospital  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 64/3/1–13). There are no medical records included in the collection.


Robroyston Hospital  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 36)

Robroyston was built as a municipal smallpox and tuberculosis hospital and opened in 1918. It was temporarily used as a military hospital in 1918–1919. By 1925 450 beds were devoted to tuberculosis patients, almost half of Glasgow’s total complement. The collection includes registers of tuberculosis patients covering the years 1919–1964  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 36/1/1–4); case notes from 1925–1927  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 36/2/2); and a register containing details of patients sent to recuperate in Switzerland  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 36/2/5).


Ruchill Hospital  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 42)

Opened in 1900 as an infectious diseases hospital Ruchill initially had 440 beds. By 1915 272 beds had been added for tuberculosis patients. The collection includes plans of the phthisis pavilions from 1913  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 42/4/10); registers of tuberculosis patients covering the years 1943–1960  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 42/1/11–14); and case notes for cases of tuberculosis meningitis from 1949–1958  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 42/5/79, 85–87, 91–93, 96, 102, 106, 108).


Further reading

For a useful summary of Glasgow’s tuberculosis hospitals in 1944 see The Corporation Hospitals – Accommodation and Functions, a report produced by the Medical Officer of Health. A copy of this report can be found in the NHSGCB Archive at  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 19/2/15. Also of interest is Glasgow and Tuberculosis – The background to Glasgow's Mass X–Ray Campaign, a booklet produced by Glasgow Corporation’s Health and Welfare Department in 1957. A copy can be found in the Archive at  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 19/2/17. A full account of the campaign is given in Glasgow’s X–ray Campaign against Tuberculosis, 11th March – 12th April 1957, a publication produced by Glasgow Corporation in 1957.


See Also:

Chalmers, A. K., The Health of Glasgow, 1818–1925, (Glasgow, 1930).
Checkland, O. & Lamb, M., Health Care as Social History, The Glasgow case, (Aberdeen University Press, 1982).