The Daily Telegraph


By DR. ADDISON, M.P., First Minister of Health.


The annual Conference of Sanitary Inspectors, which is now taking place at Buxton, is a valuable opportunit­y for bringing together the men who are the non-commission­ed officers of the health army in this country.

The public are apt to forget the valuable work accomplish­ed by sanitary inspectors throughout the country. The steady maintenanc­e of general conditions of effective sanitation is due to their devotion and toil under the guidance of local medical officers of health. We are apt to take for granted a pure water supply, proper drainage, the sanitary disposal of refuse, and the remedying of nuisances. Yet all classes have a common interest in maintainin­g the fundamenta­ls of sanitation, upon which the general health of the community is dependent. The sanitary inspector is a hard-working and little praised official, who carries out much of the unpleasant work involved in keeping up the level of the general health services. Sometimes his work appears to bring him even into physical conflict, for it is only this year that two farmers were sentenced to three months’ imprisonme­nt for assaulting two sanitary inspectors from Swansea who were making an official visit to their farm.

During the time that I was at the Ministry of Health I often received proofs of the debt that the nation owes to the efficiency of the work of this body of men, who are the main links in the sanitary cordon that exists in every town and village in this country. The Home Office inspectors supervise industrial hygiene in all the workshops, but protection of the general public, apart from the actual detection and prevention of infectious disease, rests upon the sanitary inspectors. Their official position has in the past in many cases been far too precarious; but it has now been improved, owing to the Public Health (Officers) Act, 1921, which came into operation at the beginning of April of this year. This Act gives much-needed and increased security of tenure to certain whole-time medical officers of health and to sanitary inspectors. In the majority of county boroughs, arid in all county districts, where a portion of the salaries of these officers is paid out of county funds, senior sanitary inspectors, who give their whole time to public duties, cannot be removed from office except with the consent of the Minister of Health. In addition, inspectors of nuisances will in future be designated as sanitary inspectors, and urban sanitary authoritie­s will be authorised to appoint more than one of these officials. It is interestin­g to note that the Ilford Urban District Council has been one of the first urban districts which, by unanimous resolution, has put this Act into operation.

From the point of view of increasing the efficiency of our public health services it is also noteworthy that for the first time it is proscribed by a Government order that the qualificat­ions for sanitary inspectors outside London shall be the certificat­e of the Royal Sanitary Institute or of the Sanitary Inspectors’ Examinatio­n Board. One of the most difficult of their duties is the inspection of houses, to discover sanitary defects, and to do what they can to mitigate the effects of overcrowdi­ng. The latest figures show that in England and Wales, in 1,503 districts, no fewer than 1,084,864 houses were inspected under the regulation­s and under the Public Health Acts. This large figure gives some idea of the routine work of inspectors.

It speaks well for the tact of sanitary inspectors, and also for the readiness of landlords to carry out repairs where possible, that last year defects in 180,699 houses were remedied without the service of formal notices. Such notices were served in respect of 254,749 houses. In 218,783 of these the defects were remedied by the owners, and in 1,931 by the local authoritie­s.

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