Pursuits of Wellbeing in the Victorian and Edwardian Post Office.

Holly Marley, University College London

The Post Office Medical Service (POMS) was established in June 1855, when Dr Waller Augustus Lewis was appointed as Chief Medical Officer to the postal headquarters. The POMS provided established workers earning under £150 per annum free advice and medicines, a prerequisite that helped those with limited funds obtain treatments. This paper discusses the efforts of the Post Office Medical Service in sustaining and encouraging healthful behaviours in the postal staff. It will underline the responsibilities of full and part-time Medical Officers, and highlight how they utilised their medical knowledge to make suggestions that would improve the health and wellbeing of the postal staff. It will consider the importance of the medical examination in preventing officers being broken down by ill-health whilst in service, and will suggest that the additional probationary physical assessment was implemented as an additional prophylactic measure. The medical staff were also required to perform regular checks on the sanitary state of the Head, District and Branch Post Offices in their borough. This meant that any concerns regarding ventilation, lighting and disinfection could be reported and hastily remedied. Some of the full-time Medical Officers recognised that certain occupations could be detrimental to the worker’s physical and mental wellbeing, and made recommendations to improve their working conditions. The Medical Officers’ attitudes towards the workplace conditions and shift patterns of the female telegraph staff were particularly disparate when compared with other postal occupations, and as such this paper will draw attention to the work environment of the telegraphists and telephonists and will discuss some of the measures that were suggested to safeguard their health and wellbeing. Ultimately, this paper will demonstrate that the health and wellbeing of the staff was integral to the efficient operation of the entire postal system.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 75. Health in Institutional Settings