Marking 70 years of our National Health Service
By GRAHAME ANDERSON
Not even Aneurin Bevan himself could have envisaged just how much the 1946 National Health Service Bill would revolutionise people’s lives in the UK. Born out of a passionate ideal cradle to grave medical treatment should be made available to all, dreams would be realised two years later as the NHS came into being.
It’s a source of great pride to the UK’s 64.6 million residents all medical treatment is still free at the point of use, except for some prescription and dental charges.
And in this milestone 70th year the NHS has announced plans to improve patient care by cutting long stays in hospitals. The current Conservative government has pledged new funding and the UK Space Centre with NHS England has announced it’s allocating up to £4 million to find hi-tech solutions to the major health and care challenges facing the NHS today. Last year, a new £28million wing opened at Bradford Royal Infirmary, providing world-class facilities for the elderly, children and a brand new intensive care unit.
Workers from India, the Philippines and Ireland represent the three largest migrant groups, with 81 per cent of NHS staff working in hospitals in England, of British origin. It’s thought around five per cent of the workforce are immigrants from the European Union.
Back in 1948 life expectancy from birth was just 66 for a male and 70 for a woman in England and Wales. Fast forward 70 years and men have an average lifespan of 80, with women now living a further 14 years.
It was perhaps fitting Aneira Thomas from Swansea, was the first baby to be born in the NHS, coming into the world at 12.01 am on the 5th of July 1948, at the Amman Valley Hospital in Carmarthenshire. She added: “A big thank you to all the dedicated NHS workers that care for us day in, day out – our heroes. I’ve been asked to describe in one word how I feel knowing Great Britain has the NHS, and the word I choose is “safe”. We lead the way.”
As a 13-year-old, Sylvia Diggory was the organisations first patient at Park Hospital, Trafford in Manchester. Across the NHS there were 480,000 hospital beds in England and Wales. An estimated 125,000 nurses with 5,000 consultants available to care for hospital patients. Lifetime average cost per head was £200 – it’s now £3,100. In its first year the NHS cost £248m to run – it’s now £124.7 billion each year.
Key landmarks Across The Years:
- A charge of one shilling is introduced for prescriptions in 1952 – charges would be abolished in 1965 and re-instated three years later.
- Up until 1954 hospitalised children were only allowed to see their parents for an hour on Saturdays and Sundays. Following a campaign from Paediatricians Sir James Spence in Newcastle and Alan Moncriff at Great Ormond Street, visiting on a daily basis was slowly introduced.
- The Mental Health Act of 1959 made new provision for the treatment and care of people with mental health problems.
- 1960 saw the the first UK kidney transplant take place at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on October 30 involving an identical set of 49-year-old twins. It proved to be a success adding a further six years of life to both donor and recipient.
- Liberal MP David Steel helped introduced the Abortion Act in 1967 passed on a free vote in October of that year. It became law on April 27th It did not extend to Ireland however.
- Computerised tomography (CT)scanners producing 3D images from a large series of 2D X-rays, revolutionised the NHS in 1972. The concept’s inventor Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield from England, and America’s Allan McLeod Cormack, who developed this across the Atlantic received a Nobel Prize for their efforts.
- Keyhole or laparascopic surgery was used for the first time in 1982 to remove a gallbladder. A thin telescopic rod lit with a fibre-optic cable is connected to a tiny camera, sending images of the area being operated on to a monitor.
- The first 57 NHS trusts were created in 1991 charged with encouraging creativity and innovation within a health service increasingly focused on services in the community.
- In 2012 The opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games paid tribute to the NHS, involving more than 600 nurses and other healthcare workers under the directorship of Danny Boyle.
Dr Mohit Mandiratta: GP, Feldon Practice, Halesowen, Dudley has been working in the NHS for 10-years. He explained: “Both as a patient myself and having seen loved ones needing the NHS, it has always amazed and inspired me, and made me proud to be British. Having travelled, and done placements in various parts of the world I feel lucky that we have an institution such as the NHS to meet the populations’ healthcare needs. I am privileged to be in such a position of trust and responsibility.
There’ll be a series of celebratory events big and small across the UK, television tributes and even a parliamentary awards ceremony with MP’s naming their NHS health heroes. In paying tribute, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Asian Sunday: “The NHS is quite simply our country at its best, and you are its heart. Thank you so much for everything you do for all of us.”
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