Episode 1: The NHS of Britain

Episode 1: The NHS of Britain
Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq / Unsplash

On July the 5th, 1948, thirteen year old Sylvia Diggory lay in the corner bed of ward five at Park Hospital in Manchester, unaware she was about to make history. On that day later a stern, grey haired Welshman strode in, introduced himself and asked her if she knew the significance of where she was. That man was Nye Bevan, minister of health and father of the Britain’s new national health service, the first of its kind and Sylvia was the very first patient of the system, known simply today as the NHS.

“No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of a lack of means” - Nye Bevan

Seventy-two years after Sylvia first arrived, it’s still with us saving lives and happily pissing off fiscal conservatives. But something we consider fundamental to British society didn’t have the easiest of starts.

In our very first episode we explore the origins of this ambitious organisation, what came before it and who were the people that made it happen.

It wasn’t just Britain which was having to deal with the challenges of post-war Europe–check out our episode on the Berlin Airlift to see some of the issues Germany was facing at the time.


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  2. Mark Dayan and Sarah Wilson, ‘10 NHS Myths to Watch out For’, The Nuffield Trust, January 2017, https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/resource/10-nhs-myths-to-watch-out-for.‘
  3. 70 NHS Facts’, accessed 3 November 2020, https://www.lhch.nhs.uk/media/5967/nhs70-facts.pdf.
  4. Author SA Mathieson, ‘Brand Designs: The NHS Logo’, SA Mathieson (blog), February 2004, https://samathieson.com/sa-mathieson/brand-designs-the-nhs-logo/.
  5. Nicola Small, ‘Grandson of First NHS Patient to Marry Granddaughter of the Man Who Founded It’, Mirror, July 2016, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/grandson-first-ever-nhs-patient-8334110.
  6. Emily Pringle, ‘History of the National Health Service’, Britain Magazine | The Official Magazine of Visit Britain | Best of British History, Royal Family,Travel and Culture (blog), June 2018, https://www.britain-magazine.com/features/history/nhs-history/.‘
  7. Mass Observation’, accessed 3 November 2020, http://www.massobs.org.uk/.
  8. George Campbell Gosling, ‘NHS 70: Before 1948’, The Social History Society (blog), July 2018, https://socialhistory.org.uk/shs_exchange/nhs_70/.‘
  9. NHS Identity Guidelines | Why It’s Important’, accessed 3 November 2020, https://www.england.nhs.uk/nhsidentity/why-its-important/.‘
  10. NHS Logo’, People’s History of the NHS, accessed 3 November 2020, https://peopleshistorynhs.org/museumobjects/nhs-logo/.‘
  11. Ordinary People Tell the Story of the NHS | Wellcome’, accessed 3 November 2020, https://wellcome.org/press-release/ordinary-people-tell-story-nhs.
  12. Ellen Welch, The NHS at 70: A Living History, 2018, https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=1868034.
  13. Barry Doyle and Rosemary Cresswell, ‘What Was Healthcare like before the NHS?’, The Conversation, accessed 3 November 2020, http://theconversation.com/what-was-healthcare-like-before-the- nhs-99055.