5 July 1948

On the 5 July 1948 Aneurin Bevan ceremoniously launched the NHS at Park Hospital (now Trafford Hospital) in Davyhulme, Manchester. 70 years later we look back on this day as a significant historical event that marked the birth of an iconic and treasured British institution.

 

Yet at the time, the creation of the NHS was highly contested and there was doubt that the Service would last more than a few years. But the NHS proved highly popular and rapidly became embedded in British identity. In 1952, Bevan wrote of the ‘massive contribution’ that the NHS was making to ‘the equipment of a civilised society’. It was now ‘part of the texture of our national life’. Despite the successive crises around funding and structures, the NHS has remained at the forefront of British life. The 70th anniversary is being marked by special services at Westminster Abbey and York Minster and 2018 has been punctuated by award ceremonies for NHS heroes and special communities like the Windrush generation. For people today, the NHS continues to be a symbol of compassion, fairness and equality.

Capturing the diverse lived experiences of people who remember 5 July 1948 helps us understand how history is made and remembered.

 

June Rosen was a child living in Urmston, near Park Hospital and her father was a local Labour politician. She recalls:

 

‘When I was 8, Aneurin Bevan came to stay the night with us because he was going to launch the NHS.

My mother said to me, “We’re going to take our guest breakfast in bed and you can come with me”. So we took a tray upstairs. I do remember exactly what he looked like sitting up in his pyjamas and this shock of grey hair.

My mother said it was the most amazing time to be involved in politics. We felt that we were going to build the New Jerusalem’.

June went on to train as a Physiotherapist and still works in the NHS.

 

 

Watch June Rosen talking about 5 July 1948.

Catalina Bateman was working as a charge nurse at the Christie Hospital in 1948. The introduction of the NHS passed her by unnoticed.

 

For Catalina the biggest change for her in 1948 was that she got married and due to this had to leave her post as a nurse. Nurses, like many other professions, were not expected to work once they married at this time. Laughing, she recalls that in 1948 her life was very different as she was married - but does not remember the introduction of the NHS. Despite having to leave nursing Catalina secured a post as a school health visitor with the public health board in Manchester. She reflects that this option was available to her as a married woman due to shifts in society after the Second World War.

Catalina

                                         Catalina Bateman as a student nurse in 1941.

                                         Image credit: Catalina Bateman. 

Listen to Catalina talk about 1948 here.

Ruth Edwards meeting Bevan 1948

                                    Ruth Edwards, left, with Bevan in 1948.

                                    Image Credit: Ruth Edwards.

Ruth Edwards was working as a trainee technician in a public health laboratory in 1948. She met Aneurin Bevan and asked for his autograph during his visit to Llanfrecha Grange Hospital, then a mental health institution.

 

Ruth contracted TB from her work and was sent to Llangwyfan Hospital, Denbighshire for treatment in 1949. She later trained as a medical social worker at St Thomas’ Hospital, London.

 

Listen to Ruth Edwards recount meeting Bevan here.

 

Full interviews for Ruth Edwards and Catalina Bateman will be added to our digital archive soon. Click here to go to the digital archive and discover more fascinating NHS stories.

We will be adding our film 'Voices from the First NHS Hospital' from which June's interview is taken to the website in full at the end of this month.