NHS at 71
Remembering and Reflecting
5 July 2019 marks the 71st anniversary of the NHS. Its 70th anniversary in 2018 was celebrated with high-profile public events across the UK including services at Westminster Abbey and York Minster, and national awards to acknowledge the dedication and contribution of NHS staff.
Worldwide interest in the anniversary spoke to the iconic place the NHS holds in the public imagination as a health system which embodies fairness and equity.
Here we share voices from our Digital Archive that remember the NHS’ origins, capture the 70th anniversary celebrations and reflect on its future.
Bevan Lives On
Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health in the Labour Government that created the NHS in 1948, features prominently in many memories. For Welsh people especially, Bevan and his home town of Tredegar, South Wales, live on in history as the inspiration for the NHS.
Glyn Rawley Morgan, born in 1942, talks about his family’s involvement in the Tredegar Medical Aid Society. It provided free health care at the point of use in exchange for ‘a shilling a week’.
Listen to Glyn Rawley Morgan explain how Bevan aimed to ‘Tredegarise’ national health care.
Walter Conway, Secretary of the Society, is often credited for the concept that inspired Bevan’s vision of the NHS. Tredegar long-time resident Ralph Rockman acknowledges the idea came from Conway and others. But Bevan gets the credit for translating the Tredegar model into a national health service.
Listen to Ralph Rockman describe the role of the Tredegar Medical Aid Society.
Listen to Rhiann laugh as she states how important Bevan still is.
Looking back at the 70th anniversary
Anniversaries have been commemorated through the course of the NHS’ 70 years, often used as a focus to draw attention to development or funding needs, as well as to acknowledge staff contributions. But the celebrations in 2018 were unmatched in scale and depth of public engagement with the anniversary.
Listen to Antony reflect on the day of the 70th anniversary.
Listen to Ethel Armstrong speak of her involvement in the 70th anniversary events.
Listen to June Rosen speak about her mother’s involvement in the 50th anniversary of the NHS.
Reflections on the future
The anniversary was also an opportunity to reflect on the challenges that face the NHS today. The NHS was created at a time when healthcare needs were very different. Over its 70 year history, new treatments have saved and prolonged lives and major infectious diseases have decreased. But the increase in chronic and lifestyle disease in tandem with an ageing population puts new and unanticipated stresses on the NHS that many interviewees believe should be tackled by changing the focus towards the promotion of health.
Listen to Rhian Matthews talk about the needed shift change in how people view the NHS and hospitals.
Antony Tiernan agrees the NHS is ‘not perfect’: ‘It is a loved institution, but it is also a highly criticized institution’.
Like many others, Antony highlights the need for the NHS to put more focus on prevention and greater responsibility for one’s own health.
Listen to Antony Tiernan discuss what is needed to move the NHS forwards into the future.
Some feel the political pressures on the NHS are part of the problem:
‘Take it out of the political arena’, recommends June Rosen. She adds, ‘But if we want all this … we’ve got to have an understanding for how it’s got to be paid for’.
Listen to June Rosen discuss how we must consider the costs moving forward.
Balancing advances in technology with compassionate care is a concern for Ethel Armstrong. A new NHS app was launched in 2018 but as Ethel points out not all NHS users have a smartphone.
I would like to think, that when I was snuffing my last, l'd got a nice warm compassionate hand just to hold my hand...no app ever will replace that.
Listen to Ethel Armstrong talk about what technology can’t provide in medicine.
Stories from people who had worked and experienced NHS care, particularly in the early years, were placed centre stage of the NHS70 campaign. For Antony Tiernan ‘the opportunity to meet these people and sit with them one to one’ was the most important and memorable part of the year.
NHS at 70: The Story Of Our Lives has been able to capture many of these voices and memories to preserve them for future generations in our Digital Archive. Throughout the celebrations reminiscences of the past created a vibrant space for connecting generations across the highs and lows of NHS history.
We are collecting stories from patients, staff and the public until June 2020. Click here to get in touch to share your story now and be part of NHS history.
Memories of 1948: https://www.nhs70.org.uk/story/5-july-1948
Voices from the First NHS Hospital: https://www.nhs70.org.uk/story/voices-first-nhs-hospital