June 13, 2022

Sharing health risks

 Mutualism and health care. Hospital contributory schemes in twentieth-century Britain

The British hospital contributory schemes movement was described in 1936 as ‘one of the most outstanding examples of social organisation during the last two or three decades’.1 Contributory schemes had flourished in response to the considerable financial challenges faced by the voluntary hospitals in the twentieth century, although their roots lay in the nineteenth-century Hospital Saturday and Sunday funds (described in chapter 2).2 The aim was to elicit the support of working-class subscribers (people whose incomes were insufficient for them to be able to pay for treatment by a private medical practitioner) in the form of regular contributions to hospital finances. A small weekly contribution was levied, typically 2d or 3d, or a penny in the pound of wages, mostly through payroll deductions. The funds raised were either handed over directly to individual hospitals or pooled for distribution between groups of hospitals. The principal benefit of membership was free treatment in a voluntary hospital, without having to pass the means test set by the hospital almoner