BEFORE THE NHS
Although a full-time ambulance service had been established (in London) just before the twentieth century, not everyone could have access to this service. This ambulance ticket belonged to the mother of one of George Marshall Medical Museum’s volunteers, Muriel. Kept by Muriel as a memento, it shows us that ten years before the NHS, her Mother paid a sum of 1 shilling for an annual subscription which allowed the family to receive 10 miles of travel by ambulance, should they need it.
With the advent of the NHS in 1948 there was a requirement for ambulances to be available to all who needed them. Click here for further notes about historical influences on the ambulance service in the UK.
As a girl, Muriel also remembers receiving this letter in 1940 as a thank you for her contribution of one shilling towards the cost of a mobile x-ray unit after a Children’s Hour appeal.
arrival in worcestershire…
Click here to see a photograph of the medical staff outside the Worcester Royal Infirmary in 1948.
Written and Researched by Anastasia Maria Ciccocioppo, ERASMUS and Student of University of Bologna
Modern-day expectations of healthcare were not clearly conceptualised at the time a national service was being contemplated. When did things change? How did they change and why? The ‘appointed day’ or the day that would change the way medical care was organised in the United Kingdom was to be 5th July 1948, and we are now celebrating its 70th Anniversary.
In his book The Birth of Clinic the social theorist Michel Foucault said that “The first task of the doctor is […] political: the struggle against disease must begin with a war against bad government”. He might have been thinking of a situation such as the one in Britain, post war. Looking back to November 1946, the Second World War had just ended, the last of the wounded were being returned home and Minister Aneurin Bevan is ready to issue the National Health Service Act. The plans of the Minister in his political battle for a suitable and efficient health system called for one solution only: a universal and simplified access to primary healthcare.
Many doctors initially disagreed with the idea of the NHS and openly beseeched the Minister to take a step back when a choice still seemed a possibility. They may have overstated their case that “some doctors appear unable to recognise the danger resulting from this loss of liberty…”. This sentiment in Worcestershire did not differ from the one of fear felt nationally and this was especially evident when, in regard to a circular announcing the passage of the Infirmary’s administration to the Regional Hospital Board in Birmingham, it was unanimously moved by the last Management Committee that the circular lie on the table, as a sign of protest! This scene, that at first might appear amusing, powerfully demonstrates the disagreement felt at the time.
From 5th July 1948, the new-born South Worcestershire Management Committee, appointed by the Regional Board, had as its headquarters the Worcester Royal Infirmary, and it was to become responsible for a large group of hospitals. The table and graph show analysis of expenditure and allocation of beds 1950-1951 in the hospitals under the Committee’s control. The apprehension felt by the Management Committee is understandable; they became the ‘nerve centre’ for healthcare, taking control of over 2000 beds in the county with more than 1000 of them for patients with poor mental health.
But the very real and significant change was felt by the people - the citizens, and especially the poor. Before the NHS act, access to a doctor was free only to male workers who earned less than the established amount (£2/week) and even this didn’t guarantee coverage for their families which included wives and children, often left on their own.
The importance of this revolution in British medical care was positively felt first by the common person who acquired the taste for being “looked after”, and then eventually by the medical profession which found itself, in many cases, to be part of a positive wider system that served well both user and supplier.
the nursing times
Donated by a member of the public during our celebrations in 2018, this edition of The Nursing Times published just in time for the birth of the new National Health Service has some interesting comments by and for the Nursing profession.
How to use the NHS
For those born before the days of the National Health Service, there are a few artefacts which can help us to piece together, if only in a small way, what life could have been like for members of the public trying to work out their place in the new system. One such item, currently on display at The Infirmary is a beautiful prescription notice board, pictured here on display next to a set of baby weighing scales and a terrific atlas of skin diseases!
The board is on a long-term loan from a retired Worcester Anaesthetist who works closely with the George Marshall Medical Museum. It would once have stood in the window or counter of a small chemist’s, who were eager to show to their existing and prospective customers that they could indeed hand in their GP-signed prescription note to that particular chemist to be given their prescription at a subsidised rate. You’ve probably seen a copy of “The New National Health Service” pamphlet (left) telling members of the public (“rich or poor, man, woman or child”) what the NHS is and how they “got it”, and we have a copy of this pamphlet in our archives which was collected by the original Curator (and Consultant Surgeon and General Practitioner) Mr. George Marshall. However, the notice board is a rare object in the museums, which helps to show the relationship between customer and supplier at a changing time for all.
a timeline of the nhs in worcestershire
Click here to open your timeline. With thanks to Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
During 2018 visitors to George Marshall Medical Museum were asked to write down their memories of the NHS. Here is a small selection of those memories.
A selection of poems written by Julia Barnes in 2018. Click on each one to enlarge.
In 1998, this coin was released by the Royal Mint to celebrate 50 years of the NHS.
The following programme and photographs were given to the George Marshall Medical Museum by Mrs Judith Smith in 2018. On Friday 3rd July, 1998, Judith and colleagues attended the celebration at Westminster Abbey as representatives of Worcester Royal Infirmary. This service was also attended by HRH Prince Charles.
On 5th July, a service of Thanksgiving was also held at Worcester Cathedral, at which Judith was an usher in uniform. This was followed by tea and cake at the Bishop’s Palace.
You may click on the individual images to enlarge them.