"Mendip Hospital - An Appreciation" is a well-researched and fascinating account of the Somerset County Lunatic Asylum, later re-named Mendip Hospital, from its beginning in 1848 until its closure in 1991. The book outlines the progression of the hospital from its inception as a secluded institution for insane paupers to a modern open psychiatric hospital that became an important part of the wider community.In addition, it covers issues such as aspects of patient care and recreation, staff training and some staff memories, including those of the author, Susan Marshall. Marshall's research explores the effect that both world wars had on the hospital, in particular the problems brought about by World War II - rationing, air raids and staff shortages as well as an increase in patients, which led to overcrowding on an unprecedented scale. Other external effects were to change the way the hospital was run. For example, after the war, the Labour Government introduced the Welfare State and the National Health Service.
Marshall then proceeds to identify some of the staff that worked at the hospital, including the medical superintendents and nurses, and looks at factors such as working conditions, especially in the earlier years of the institution."Mendip Hospital - An Appreciation" also serves as a wider history of mental health care in this country. It details the prevalent attitudes towards psychiatric patients at different times and the methods of treatment that have been considered effective and also includes various items of Government legislation that have changed working practices and treatment methods across the UK. The author writes with warmth and affection for the hospital, which makes this more than an historical account of an institution. "Mendip Hospital - An Appreciation" will prove compelling reading for those who have connections with the hospital, those with an interest in local history and mental health professionals and students.
Susan Marshall qualified as a physiotherapist at St. Thomas' Hospital, London, and holds and Open University Arts Degree and a Diploma in European Humanities. She worked at Chelmsford and York hospitals before coming to live in Somerset with her husband and three sons. She was associated with the League of Friends of Mendip Hospital for 25 years and was a member of staff at the hospital for 20 years.