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A Modern Hospital explores our institutional past

New research by the Finding Out Group - a collective of disabled researchers - with support from leading academic Jan Walmsley, has helped us to better understand the experiences of staff and patients at Princess Marina Hospital in Northamptonshire, before its closure. Princess Marina Hospital was modern institution, built in 1972, closed by 1995. Its short lifespan reflects the fundamental change in thinking that took place during that period.

This important research gives us particular insight into the perspectives of staff, who are often absent from research into the institutional history of people with learning disabilities. Their perspective shows that 'modern hospitals' like Princess Marina, did mark a time when important progress was made. Many staff could contrast this new hospital with the older institutions and identify big improvements.

The research also helps us to understand the tensions and paradoxes of institutional care. On the one hand, in some respects staff were free to develop warmer and more human relationships with people than they can now, in tightly regulated services. On the other hand staff themselves were often fearful, and the institutional culture often left them unwilling to report abuse or challenge bad practice.

You can download the full report here:


Dr Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform wrote:

"Our thanks go to Jan Walmsley and all the researchers for their work. It is so important that we remember what has happened in the past - not just the dreadful oppression and constraints of institutionalisation - but also the sparks and warmth of humanity that could still be found within institutions. For all the damaging impact of institutional structures, it is always possible for each one of us, to behave like a human being and to treat others with respect."  

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