Manchester and Salford District Provident Association was founded in 1833 to encourage the working class to take responsibility for their health and enable them to pay for medical care. However, it was not until the 1870s that this scheme was actually applied to dispensaries. There was some opposition to the idea from some local practitioners and hospitals. The provident scheme aimed to reduce dependence on and inappropriate use of medical charities and so gradually became accepted. Manchester and Salford Provident Dispensaries Association was founded around 1873. It aimed to divide Manchester and Salford into districts, and provide a provident dispensary in each district. People who were not cared for under the poor law, but could not afford medical fees, would pay to become a member of their local dispensary. Once they were a member they could receive medical care at the dispensary for little or no charge. The Dispensaries Association also had agreements with many local voluntary hospitals who would accept provident patients when referred from the dispensaries. The provident dispensaries were not charities and this was stressed to the members. However, many dispensaries struggled financially as they tended to be joined by people in need of treatment, rather than by the healthy.
Individual provident Dispensaries:
First was Ardwick Green in 1874, then in 1875 Medlock Street, Hulme (later known as Hulme District Dispensary); Ashton New Road, Beswick; St Stephen Street, Salford; Dawson Street, Regent Road; Queen's Road, Harpurhey; Livesey Street. Queen's Road and Livesey Street Dispensaries amalgamated in 1876 to form Rochdale Road Dispensary. Pendleton Dispensary opened in 1879. In 1880, two further dispensaries were established at West Gorton (known as Gorton and Openshaw) and at Newton Heath (as a branch of Rochdale Road Dispensary), and 1881 saw the opening of a dispensary in Lower Broughton. Ancoats Provident Dispensary (which was part of Ancoats Hospital) became a provident dispensary in 1875, but was not managed by the Provident Dispensary Association until 1885.
St Stephen Street Dispensary closed in 1883 due to a lack of members, those remaining members transferred to the Lower Broughton Dispensary. Newton Heath Branch Dispensary closed in 1886 and its members were transferred to Rochdale Road Dispensary. After this date, the nine remaining dispensaries were still active until at least 1908.