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"Can you afford to be ill?": paying for treatment

Ill health was feared by many for financial as well as medical reasons. Medical fees, combined with the loss of the income of wage earners unable to work, could lead to destitution. Benefit societies and insurance policies were established to provide medical care for payers of subscriptions, provided that certain conditions were met. A system of National Health Insurance was established as part of the National Insurance Act in 1911, which used deductions from wages to fund a state insurance scheme. For those unable or unwilling to pay subscriptions, there was a possibility of free healthcare provided by charities (if the applicant was seen as a suitable candidate for assistance), or, if all else failed, the Poor Law Union workhouse.

Our digital collection contains various documents which relate to medical insurance, benefit society and charity schemes. A selection of these are linked to below.

National Insurance:

Subscriptions and private insurance: