Medical charities in Manchester provided a wide variety of services to the community and those represented here show the wide variety of institutions that supported the medical profession in Manchester over two hundred years. Many of these charities were founded in the mid-nineteenth century to address the problems arising from the rapid growth and industrialisation of the city, such as poor housing, prostitution and poverty. These charities often combined charitable aid with moral or religious purposes, in particular the institutions for former prostitutes. There were a large number of charities and institutions established to support people with various physical and mental disabilities. They provided a wide variety of services, including accommodation, medical care, advice and assistance, facilities, holidays, education and financial aid. Many of these institutions have changed dramatically over the years in response to changing social and medical attitudes to disability. Not only has terminology changed, with terms such as 'feeble-mindedness' and 'crippled' no longer being acceptable, but so have ideas and practices. This can be seen the in change in emphasis from separation to integration, and from permanent care to treatment and support. Some of these charities were branches of national societies, others were unique to Manchester. Even the branches faced issues which were particular to Manchester, and often acted fairly independently from their parent bodies.
Other charities in Manchester provided practical and financial support to other medical institutions and in particular to the voluntary hospitals. Some provided clothing and surgical equipment to hospitals. Others raised funds for the hospitals, such as the Hospital Saturday and Sunday Funds. The Hospital Saturday Fund later became part of a movement away from pure charity, towards the concept that the poor should be helped to support themselves, largely through the establishment of provident schemes. This movement began in the mid nineteenth century, but it was only in the 1870s that provident schemes made their mark on medical care, with the establishment of provident dispensaries. These were the forerunner of health insurance schemes. Health legislation had major effects on the remits and practices of many of these medical charities. The National Insurance Act of 1911 made provident dispensaries largely redundant, and the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 had ramifications for many charities, even those not directly providing medical care. A number of charities were disbanded in 1948, but many changed their roles to fill in what gaps were left in NHS provision.