Celebrating 70 years of the National Health Service

NHS celebrates its 70th birthday
NHS celebrates its 70th birthday
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This is a special year for the NHS.

It is 70 years since the National Health Service was established on a wave of new found socialist sentiment after the Second World War that also saw the Edinburgh International Festival come into being.

Today, the health service has never been busier, but despite the challenges of recent years, it continues to offer the same “cradle to grave” care to all that transformed life in those post-war years. And it remains not only perhaps our most cherished national institution but one of the most revered around the world.

In 1948, there were no routine antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs or blood pressure treatments, and infectious diseases were common. Today that has all changed.

There will be events and celebrations across the country in the months ahead as we approach the day of the 70th anniversary on July 5, 1948.

It is an opportunity for the country to take stock, consider the amazing asset that we have and how best to support it into the future, and to celebrate the incredible achievements of those working in the National Health Service from 1948 through to the present day.

At the Evening News, we are no different from anyone else. Over the coming months we want to celebrate the successes of the health service in Edinburgh and the Lothians over the last seven decades – and we want your help.

We want you to tell us about the everyday Health Heroes working today to deliver exceptional care to the people of the region. We also want to hear your memories of working in the health services, and being treated by it, over the years.

Tim Davison, Chief Executive, NHS Lothian, said: “I am privileged to say that we have many Health Heroes in NHS Lothian who go above and beyond in the care of their patients. I know they don’t seek recognition as they feel they are just doing their job, so the Celebrating Success Awards are our way of saying thank you, in a small way, to staff who put their heart and soul into patient care. In our 70th anniversary year I would like to commend our staff for their commitment and dedication and we welcome nominations from patients and members of the public.”

The National Health Service started in 1948 in a society weary but disciplined by war, and accustomed to austerity.

People had become accustomed to the simple things in life during the war. Sport and radio and holidays at home were the entertainment, there being little travel abroad.

We take the National Health Service for granted now, but it is only 70 years ago that health care was a luxury not everyone could afford.

Imagine life now without your “free” health care and the difference that the NHS has made to people’s lives.

The same services were available the day after the creation of the NHS as the day before, no new hospitals were built nor hundreds of new doctors employed.

Poor people who had previously gone without treatment and access to services suddenly didn’t have to rely on dangerous home remedies and the charity of some kind natured doctors – leading to a surge in demand for GPs and pharmacies.

In its first full financial year, the total cost of the NHS in Scotland was nearly £42 million.

According to Arthur Woodburn, Secretary of State for Scotland: “We have had one-legged patients coming in for an artificial leg who had never had one before. We have sometimes had the tragedy that it is now too late to fit limbs and all we can do is to supply them with wheeled chairs.”

Demand had soared so high there were concerns the Royal Infirmary could not cope with the site already said to have outlived its usefulness.

It would take half a century before a replacement hospital was finally agreed, merging the Infirmary, Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion, but also the Princess Margaret Rose Orthopaedic Hospital and the City Hospital, onto one purpose-built site.

To put into context how the NHS has grown into a vital component in the health care system in Scotland, it’s first year saw 15 million prescriptions dispensed in Scotland. Today that figure is more than 103 million with the treatment being provided free of charge.

Outpatient numbers have risen from 1.2 million in 1948 to 4.25 million in 2016/17 while employed nurses and midwives rose from 22,062 to a record high in 59,000.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Scotland’s NHS has changed significantly in its 70 years, but its best qualities have endured. From the care, compassion, and professionalism of our staff, to remaining a public, universal service based on need – it has been 70 years of striving at all times for the highest possible standards in clinical excellence and patient care.

“The choices, services and outcomes that NHS Scotland provides today would not have been imaginable in 1948, and it keeps adapting, developing and changing. The lesson of the years since its creation is that staying still simply isn’t an option. Through our approach of investment and reform, we will keep driving forward improvements and innovations.

“Everyone will have their own personal stories of what the NHS has done for them – why we must never take our health service for granted. I am delighted to see our NHS reach such a significant anniversary and I hope all of Scotland will join the celebrations this year as we pay tribute to everything it has achieved.”

The NHS has been great and continues to be a vital component to health care in Scotland. It is a treasured institution that will continue to expand and make groundbreaking discoveries in medicine.

Tim Davison, Chief Executive, NHS Lothian said: “The majority of us are lucky to have always had the NHS, providing excellent, patient-centred care, free to everyone at the point of delivery.

“Today, our NHS offers multiple services and pioneering treatments unimaginable seventy years ago. Scotland has played an important part in the NHS over the years, with many Scottish clinicians and medics spearheading innovative and groundbreaking work.

“This milestone provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the last seventy years and all that has been achieved, and celebrate all that the NHS stands for.”