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Is it possible to get hold of old medical records?

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#1
Hi,

It has always been known that my great grandma was in a mental institute for a number of years. It has become apparent that the reasons that we were lead to believe she was in there for is not right.

The institute does not exist anymore. Is there any way of obtaining her records?
 

dochines

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#2
You may be able to find some basic information like her date of admission and discharge and possibly a diagnosis

Can you tell me the name of the institution and approximate dates and I will see if I can trace where they might be if not destroyed

The medical records were quite "thin" 70 or more years ago but you may be able to get something. I assume your grandmother is no longer with you.If she were still alive she could apply for access to her own medical records, and they might be forthcoming for a charge to cover copying.

I have to say it was quite common for patients to be institutionalised for trivial reasons especially if of below average intellect. I once had an elderly patient discharged from a psychiatric hospital having been an inpatient for 68 years! She had been abandoned by her family when aged 13 after she had been pregnant and had been delivered of a baby

Hope I can help

dochines
 
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#3
Thank you for your offer of help. It is my great grandmother's records I was after. Her name was Minnie Redding. Her maiden name was Chandler. Her date of birth is 1887 (September). The year she was in there is a bit vague. We were led to believe she had a breakdown after her husband Joseph died in 1915. According to Joseph's war records she was already in there.

She was in Winwick asylum in Lancashire as it was then. The hospital is not there anymore .
If you could even point me in the right direction that would be great .:)
 

dochines

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#5
Well whilst I sleep the Aussies can search out the answers. Thanks Gibbo you beat me to it. I would enquire at the Cheshire archives and also make contact with the Winwick web site and make you research interests known to them

dochines
 

dochines

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#6
Hear are some general historical notes lifted from another site. interesting at one point it housed idiot boys. Under the old Mental Health Act those considered mentally sub normal were classified as idiots and imbeciles, and I think those terms were still in use until 1959 act brought much needed changes

The first public hospital for the care of the mentally ill was opened in 1766 when the Manchester Infirmary was extended to allow the admission of "Poor Lunaticks". The hospital was moved to Cheadle in 1850 and later became Cheadle Royal.
By the mid-nineteenth century, three public asylums had been built in Lancashire: at Lancaster, Rainhill and Prestwich. In 1894 Lancashire Asylums Board commissioned a new asylum to be built on the 207 acre Winwick Rectory Estate north of Warrington, Lancashire. Work started in 1896, and pending its completion it was agreed to convert Old Winwick Hall - previously home to the Rector of Winwick - into a home for accommodation of about 50 'idiot boys'. Winwick Hall opened in 1897 and Winwick Asylum - later Winwick Hospital - opened in 1902 at a cost of £383,000. About 1905 Old Winwick Hall was demolished and later replaced with a new building, also known as Winwick Hall.

By the time of the First World War the hospital housed 2,160 patients. Almost all of these were transferred to other asylums when it became a military hospital - the Lord Derby War Hospital*. Between 1915 and 1920 some 56,000 wounded soldiers were treated there, and the hospital began to resume its original purpose in 1921.

The Mental Treatment Act of 1930 revised the Lunacy Laws, replacing the term 'asylum' with 'mental hospital', permitting voluntary admission for treatment, and introducing psychiatric out-patient clinics. This marked significant progress for Winwick along with other asylums throughout the country.

In 1940 a separate unit - Delph Hospital - was built on the opposite side of the A49, initially as a new reception hospital. It was later used to house tubercular patients, becoming an admissions unit again in the late 60s. It is now demolished and a new hospital stands on the site. Winwick Hospital itself saw many changes over the years, particularly in the 1960s following the 1959 Mental Health Act, and had moved from its original largely custodial role to a more enlightened treatment-orientated one.

In 1974 the hospital began a community psychiatric nursing service to follow up discharged patients and practise preventive psychiatry in the catchment area of Warrington, Lymm, Newton-le-Willows, Haydock, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Bootle, Crosby, Ormskirk and Southport. With an increasing emphasis on 'care in the community' the reduction in the number of in-patients which began in the 1960s continued apace, and the hospital finally closed its doors in 1997 after 100 years of providing care and treatment to the mentally ill.

Most of the hospital buildings were demolished and replaced by a housing estate, although what was Winwick Hall still remains as part of the administrative complex of Hollins Park Hospital, which stands on part of the old grounds.

For a detailed account of the building of Winwick Hospital and life within its walls a recommended read is "A Place of Safety" by Ken Lewis RMN, published in 1995 by Willow Printing.
 

duckweed

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#8
From my own experience it is not that the medical records kept were sparse it is that when many institutions were taken over by the National Health Service many hospitals simply burnt all previous records. Whether you find something depends on how zealous the incoming authority was.

Some enlightened people have given their records to the archives when they found them but their records are often incomplete.

In Sheffield I have the date of admission for one relative in a mental hospital and the date they were released and then the date they were re-admitted and that they died. Another relative I know died in the workhouse from his death certificate but there are no admission records available from that date.

Given the stigma of someone being admitted to a mental institution many people probably felt burning the records was a kindness to the families.
 

dochines

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#9
I agree a lot of medical records were destroyed but not normally the admission documents and discharge/death documents. What I meant by thin is that doctors wrote very little on a day to day basis on the clinical condition of the patient. Very few tests or investigations were done 100 years ago especially in a long term psychiatic hospital that were full of patients with learning difficulties, with conditions like Downs syndrome, known then as mongolism, and congenital syphylis which were very comon. Even in the 1950s notes that were written then were very sparse compared with todays

dochines
 

duckweed

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#10
Thinking about possible causes. Post natal depression? Or depression due to the loss of a child? Is there a chance that the birth or death of a child may link into reasons for depression?
 

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