Private / Public Healthcare in Britain’s 18th Century Navy
Dr. Matthew Neufeld’s research on disabled soldiers sparked his interest in the mostly negative assessments of 18th-century naval medicine in England. Examining the system of health care organized by the British Navy along the English coastline, Dr. Neufeld’s project focusses on the relationships between private care providers and a major government agency.
The project, entitled “Cure in the Community: The Rise and Fall of Popular Naval Medicine in England, 1650-1750,” examines the medical and social benefits and costs associated with the partnerships between individuals, enterprises and public officials; the delivery of health care along the lines of a private/public partnership; and the eventual demise of the partnership with the Navy building permanent hospitals after 1750.
His key question is why the Navy hired and relied on private individuals to provide medical care for seamen for so long. Dr. Neufeld is also examining the role that gender relations played in the system, as well as any change in attitudes towards private care providers according to social class. His project brings together aspects of early modern British political history, the social history of nursing, modern social theory and the role of women in early modern health care.
The private/public partnership system of naval medicine in 18th-century England has clear implications for contemporary issues regarding the viability of private-provider/public-payer schemes for health care delivery.