The Ever Open Door
From Louise Williams on March 26th, 2018
This film of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh was given to LHSA in 1977 by the widow of its director, John Lauder. When the Infirmary's Managers approached him in March 1938 to make a silent film, he was President of the Waverley Cinematograph Society. The premiere took place on 27 January 1939 in the Recreation Room of the Florence Nightingale Nurses' Home, which was used for the first time on this occasion.
There is no soundtrack and the written script is a parsimonious one. After brief and somewhat inaccurate statements about the 18th and early 19th century history of the Infirmary, the main purpose of the film becomes clear. It is a celebration of the work of so-called 'Specialised Departments', such as X-rays, electro-cardiology, medical electricity, eyes, skin, bacteriology and surgical out-patients. Many such departments were housed in special extensions to the hospital's site, the development of which had reached a peak when the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion and the Nurses' Home opened in 1939.
The theme of the Ever Open Door was central to the Infirmary's pre-NHS ideology of caring for the sick. Except for a very early period in its history, no special recommendations from either subscribers or clinicians were required for admissions. Medical need was the only criteria. This policy enabled the hospital to appeal for voluntary contributions on the broadest possible basis. Local press coverage of the premiere of the film made it clear that, as well as being a celebration of scientific advances in medicine and surgery, it was also "propaganda" and likely to ensure continued donations to Edinburgh's foremost public charity.