Patient tells how tiny Welsh society was inspiration for NHS
A little-known medical aid society in South Wales inspired Aneurin Bevan to create the NHS, according to unique audio on a digital archive launched today, one month before the service’s seventieth anniversary.
The work of University of Manchester historians will for the first time document the experiences of NHS patients and staff over its history with recordings, photos and other memorabilia.
NHS at 70, led by Dr Stephanie Snow from University’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology & Medicine and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, contains audio of a patient who was helped by the Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid Society.
The interview recorded by NHS at 70 team member James McSharry is with 79-year-old Philip Prosser from Tredegar, home town of the Labour Minister who masterminded the health service’s creation.
Philip was born with ‘club foot’, a condition where one or both feet point down and inwards.
In the footage, he describes how his father paid a small weekly subscription to the Society formed by miners and steelworkers, which entitled him to surgery on his feet at around 1939.
By the time of the Second World War, around 95% of people in Tredegar were covered by the service.
“At the time my father was paying in to the Medical Aid Society so I was taken to one of the top orthopaedic doctors in Wales and that was the start of my treatment for quite a few years. When the NHS came in in 1948, I was transferred over. It was exactly the same as the NHS in 1948. We already had it in Tredegar before that,” he told the interviewer.
Other interviews in the archive also cover:
- Charles Howe, born at Park Hospital, Trafford in 1934 which was later to be the birthplace of the NHS.
- Joyce Thompson, born in 1928 in Padiham, near Burnley, who reflects on healthcare before the NHS.
- Jane Milne, born in 1946 in Kingston in Hull, who talks about her experience of living in the Nurses’ Home in 1964.
- David Jones, born in 1956 in Finley Woods near Coventry, who trained at Liverpool Medical School at the end of the 1970s.
The NHS’s 70th birthday is an ideal opportunity to share the stories and memories of the NHS, and the NHS at 70 archive will mean generations of patients and staff can continue to look back on decades of progress as we all look forward to the future of our health service
Dr Snow said: “Philip’s interview shows that the principles underpinning the NHS - a health service available to all, free at the point of use and financed from subscriptions according to peoples’ means - were around before its creation in 1948.
“It also shows how Bevan’s home town helped formed his ideas which would shape healthcare in the whole of Britain.
“Bevan saw it worked in Tredegar and felt it would work across the UK- and 70 years later, people’s commitment to the idea of an NHS remains steadfast.”
She added: “Anyone can visit the project at https://www.nhs70.org.uk/ which is about working with volunteers from all walks of life to capture people’s stories and memorabilia to mark the seventieth anniversary of the NHS and create an Archive that will be there for future generations.
“And the NHS has an advantage over other significant historical anniversaries, because we still have access to people who participated in its 1948 creation
“Thanks to National Lottery players we have the opportunity to collect this history before it’s too late.”
Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England said: “The NHS’s 70th birthday is an ideal opportunity to share the stories and memories of the NHS, and the NHS at 70 archive will mean generations of patients and staff can continue to look back on decades of progress as we all look forward to the future of our health service.”