From the Archive
How the First World War changed the medical world
t the start of World War One, although women had been allowed to study and practise medicine for 40 years, their work was confined to general practice and in hospitals founded by women for the treatment of women and children. When they volunteered their services to treat the war wounded, the War Office refused to employ women in war zones, believing it had sufficient reserves of male medical personnel. The French Red Cross was more accepting of female doctors. By the close of war, one fifth of female doctors had undertaken medical war work, both here and abroad.
Physicians learned better wound
management and improved survival rates. The huge scale of those needing medical care helped teach physicians and nurses the advantages of triage.
Blood banks were developed. Skin graft surgery was pioneered The Thomas splint, which secured a
broken leg, had a massive impact on survival rates. At the beginning of war 80% of soldiers with broken femurs died but by 1916, using this splint meant 80% of soldiers with this injury survived.
NGH gained a new pathology laboratory, paid for by G.T. Hawkins, boot and shoe manufacturer. It was much needed to help treat the influx of war wounded to the county as the nearest laboratory was in London or Birmingham. The laboratory helped in the making of vaccines, treatment of war wounds, TB - and VD with around 5 per cent of all the men enlisted in Britain’s armies during the war becoming infected with venereal disease.
NGH’s Matron Nelson who worked at a Voluntary Aid Detachment hospital during the First World War.
Northamptonshire Health Charity
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