The NHS at 70

A champion of innovation, community and World-class care, the National Health Service is one of the crown jewels of British society, and the most trusted institution in Britain. As it celebrates its 70th birthday, Emily Hamlet takes a look at some of the innovations carried out by the NHS since its inception...

The NHS at 70

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The founder of the NHS

Since the National Health service (NHS) was launched in 1948, British citizens have not had to pay for medical bills, as the NHS was formed in order to ‘provide services for free to the point of delivery.’ The NHS also became the very first medical service to give free healthcare in the world. Nye Bevan, who was the health secretary at the time, launched the NHS at Park Hospital in Manchester – which is now known as the Trafford General Hospital. Bevan believed that healthcare should be free despite wealth and social class. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and opticians were brought together by the NHS, which is how the service operates today.


Visiting hours

In 1954, the rule that children could now visit their parents whilst in hospital everyday was introduced. Before this rule was established, children were only allowed to visit for one hour on a Saturday and Sunday. This rule was created by Sir James Spence, from Newcastle, and Alan Moncriff, from Great Ormond Street, because they had demonstrated how traumatising it was for children when they weren’t allowed to see their parents for a long period of time. Originally, the children were given limited information about their parent’s stay at the hospital along with not knowing how long they would stay there.


Mental health

Today, people with mental health problems are no longer ignored thanks to the Mental Health Act, which was introduced in 1959. It was built upon the ideas of the Percy Commission by Winston Churchill and the government – they all believed that people with mental health problems should not be looked down upon by government or society. The act abolished psychiatric hospitals and introduced community care. At the time, 0.4% of the population of England were housed in asylums. For the first time in history, mental health patients were acknowledged and were considered just like other patients.


Kidney transplants

A pair of 49 year old identical twins were operated on for the first kidney transplant in the UK on 30 October 1960, at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. It was a success and both donor and recipient survived with no complications. The operation was carried out by Sir Michael Woodruff who was heavily interested in the research of organ transplantation. Now, thousands of kidney transplants are performed worldwide with a very high success rate, of which over 2,000 are performed in the UK every year.


Heart transplants

Britain’s first heart transplant was performed on a 45 year old man on 3 May 1968. The procedure lasted seven hours and was performed by South-African born surgeon Donald Ross, along with 18 other doctors and nurses at the National Heart Hospital in Marylebone, London. Although this was a huge milestone for Britain, it was the 10th heart transplant to take place in the World. The first ever heart transplant was performed by Christiaan Barnard in Cape Town, South Africa, a few months prior to the UK’s first transplant. Each year, 200 heart transplants are performed in the UK.


The world’s first test tube baby

On the 25th of July 1978, the world’s first test tube baby was born to parents Lesley and John Brown. Baby Louise was the result of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), and her conception paved the way for over one million children worldwide to be conceived in the same way. Dr Patrick Steptoe and Dr Robert Edwards developed the new technique on how to fertilise an egg outside a woman’s body before replacing it back into the womb. Thanks to this discovery, couples who are unable to conceive now have a chance of having children. Before Louise was conceived, her mother was told that there was a one in a million chance of success – Louise’s father called her a miracle after she was born.


Breast cancer research

Breast cancer screening was introduced in 1988 to help reduce the risk of women over 50 dying from the disease. Sir Patrick Forrest suggested the idea, and designed the process alongside an expert committee. The screening works by taking x-rays of each breast and checking for any tissue damage or tumours. Thanks to this, the number of breast cancer deaths has been reduced by 20% over the last 30 years. Today, about 1.3 million women are getting tested for breast cancer and about 10,000 diagnoses are made annually. Women over the age of 50 are encouraged to get a free screening every three years.


The NHS in the 21st century

The NHS are currently working with 10 housing developments across England to help shape healthcare in different communities. By doing this, the NHS hopes to unite public health bodies and encourage healthier living for people all over the UK. In order to do this, over 200,000 homes need to be built in England every year. The NHS’ objective is to develop the best practices, case studies and guidance to help ensure all new housing developments embed certain principles – to promote health and wellbeing and securing high quality health care services.


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