Casualty register opens book on 1928 hospital patients

Emergency Department consultant Dr Anthony Kearns and the Casualty Register

The dusty, leather-bound volume could be a Book of Spells straight from Harry Potter. In fact, the gold-embossed, red ledger is the Casualty Register for the Victoria Hospital, Blackpool.

It was unearthed by the hospital library and the first of 8,000 entries was made on 5 July 1928, 20 years to the day before the founding of the NHS, when 15-year-old Thomas was treated for a fractured nose. The final entry in August 1931 is for an injury to the fingers of 31-year-old “motor driver” Alex.

Typically, Blackpool hospital Emergency Department, the successor to the old casualty unit at Whitegate Drive, sees up to 250 patients a day. Our pre-NHS register shows it was a busy day if the number of patients ran into double figures.

Some of the injuries recorded reflect Blackpool’s pre-eminence as a holiday resort such as when in May 1929 Mabel, aged 16, from Manchester was treated for being “kicked in the jaw by a mule”.

Treatment and dressing of infected wounds is also a regular feature – a big concern at a time before antibiotics when even the smallest scratch could turn septic and even prove fatal.

The 1928-1931 Victoria Hospital Casualty Register

Other entries are more prosaic. Door attender Frank, 50, needed an x-ray after being bitten by a cat.

Some injuries appear occupational such as butcher John, 25, who arrived with a hook in his hand while confectionery worker Vincent, 25, was burned on the neck with boiling sugar.

Dr Anthony Kearns, Emergency Department consultant at Blackpool hospital, said people were working more at risk with none of the health and safety precautions such as goggles and steel-capped boots we now take for granted.

“There were also lots more younger people being treated when many of the patients we see today are much more elderly,” he said.

“This is an amazing find and is now firmly a part of the early history of emergency medicine on the Fylde coast and of the speciality as a whole.”

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