Between asylum and community
DGH psychiatric nurses at Withington General Hospital, 1971-91
in Mental health nursing
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The post-war history of mental health services is dominated by the shift from the mental hospital to the community; with a corresponding shift within nursing from asylum nurse to community psychiatric nurse. Within this broad history, however, what is often overlooked is the role of the DGH psychiatric unit which, sited in the local district general hospital and espousing an acute, episodic model of mental illness, was explicitly designed to break down the isolation and stigma of mental health care, and to integrate mental health patients and services with their physical counterparts. This chapter focuses on the role and experiences of nurses in one such unit, Withington Psychiatric Unit in South Manchester, which opened amidst a fanfare of publicity and optimism in 1971. It draws on the oral testimonies of eight psychiatric nurses and a number of other staff, augmented by documentary evidence, including two postgraduate theses written within a few years of the unit opening. The chapter explores how nurses both contributed and adapted to their new environment, forging a new professional identity, far removed from that of the traditional asylum nurse.

Mental health nursing

The working lives of paid carers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

Editors: Anne Borsay and Pamela Dale



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