From the vaults

Thirty years ago

Are you fed up of sneaking out of pubs into the cold and rain for a crafty fag? Sick of scientists telling you how much to drink? Thinking of voting Tory because of New Labour’s moral crusade against enjoying yourself unless, of course, you have loads of money and stay in fashionable resorts with rich friends?

Nevermind, apparently it was the same 30 years ago under Labour. Health minister David Ennals was telling the poor, overworked working classes to cut down on the booze and cigarettes even then. And yet, back in those enlightened days, Community Care was offering sound advice, none of this recent green issue nonsense.

Our issue of 8 February 1978 quoted that most revealing tract entitled Anomolies and Curiosities of Medicine (1896) on the power of stimulants. One Thomas Wishart of Dumfries lived to 124 and all but his first eight years were dedicated to chewing tobacco, while John de la Somet of Virginia died at the age of 130 after a very long life smoking his state’s most famous product.

The book did however illustrate how habits have changed over the years: apparently the long living Scots of the 18th century owed it all to the consumption of porridge these days doctors are forever berating them for their unhealthy love of deep fried Mars bars, and bottles of Buckfast tonic wine.

Twenty years ago

As a failed historian (still open to offers: medieval animal husbandry my area of expertise), I can spot historical revisionism a mile off. All this “the Spanish Inquisition wasn’t so bad” and “Vlad the Impaler was misunderstood” cuts no academic ice with me. Yet in this very journal we find evidence of the biggest revisionist theory of them. Apparently, “The Lady who wasn’t for turning” did turn afterall, especially for do-gooding social care types. Tucked away on page one, 18 February issue of Community Care, is a story headlined “Include child care law in next session, ADSS urges Thatcher”.

A group of fearless directors sent a “hard-hitting” letter to the blessed Margaret asking, nay demanding, that child care law must be overhauled in the light of several child protection scandals. And lo and behold if she didn’t deliver. Why, only the next year, the Children Act came into force. Would a social work campaign to “bring back Thatcher” be the answer to the child care problems of today…No, I thought not.

Fifteen years ago

A parliamentary committee spent one February afternoon grilling civil servants about relations between health and social care.

Lord Herbert Laming, who normally has almost diety-like status in this magazine (see anything by the editors), was quizzed over assessments, the role of charities and the private sector, rights of service users and so on, issues that are pertinent even today. Laming, adopting a tone reminiscent of an obfuscating civil servant on a philosophy course, stated “reality will be related to what happens”.

Meanwhile, the drive towards joint working revealed that age-old problem: where does the buck stop? Labour MP Alice Mahon interrogated Tom Luce, head of the Department of Health’s then community services division (think of a Whitehall Mandarin version of David Behan). Luce, pioneering the multi-managed matrix model, said that responsibility will reside with senior health and social care bosses.

Mahon replied: “One buck and two managers, Mr Luce?” A question that even today needs an answer.

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