The action taken by the Council of the British Medical Association in promoting a Bill to reconstitute the Local Government Board will, it is to be hoped, receive the strong support of public authorities and of all who are in any way interested in the efficient administration of the laws which, directly or indirectly, have a bearing on the health and general well‐being of the people. In the memorandum which precedes the draft of the Bill in question it is pointed out that the present “Board” is not, and probably never was, intended to be a working body for the despatch of business, that it is believed never to have met that the work of this department of State is growing in variety and importance, and that such work can only be satisfactorily transacted with the aid of persons possessing high professional qualifications, who, instead of being, as at present, merely the servants of the “Board” tendering advice only on invitation, would be able to initiate action in any direction deemed desirable. The British Medical Association have approached the matter from a medical point of view—as might naturally have been expected—and this course of action makes a somewhat weak plank in the platform of the reformers. The fourth clause of the draft of the Bill proposes that there should be four “additional” members of the Board, and that, of such additional members, one should be a barrister or solicitor, one a qualified medical officer of health, one a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and one a person experienced in the administration of the Poor‐law Acts. The work of the Local Government Board, however, is not confined to dealing with medical, engineering, and Poor‐law questions, and the presence of one or more fully‐qualified scientific experts would be absolutely necessary to secure the efficient administration of the food laws and the proper and adequate consideration of matters relating to water supply and sewage disposal. The popular notion still exists that the “doctor” is a universal scientific genius, and that, as the possessor of scientific knowledge and acumen, the next best article is the proprietor of the shop in the window of which are exhibited some three or four bottles of brilliantly‐coloured liquids inscribed with mysterious symbols. The influence of these popular ideas is to be seen in the tendency often exhibited by public authorities and even occasionally by the legislature and by Government departments to expect and call upon medical men to perform duties which neither by training nor by experience they are qualified to undertake. Medical Officers of Health of standing, and medical men of intelligence and repute are the last persons to wish to arrogate to themselves the possession of universal knowledge and capacity, and it is unfair and ridiculous to thrust work upon them which can only be properly carried out by specialists. If the Local Government Board is to be reconstituted and made a thing of life—and in the public interest it is urgently necessary that this should be done—the new department should comprise experts of the first rank in all the branches of science from which the knowledge essential for efficient administration can be drawn.
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