Growing up with the NHS: born on 5 July 1948

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Part of The public and the NHS

As part of our work on the NHS and the public, we’ll be publishing a series of blogs providing different perspectives on the relationship between the NHS and the public, and how it has changed over time. Who better to start with than the first person born into the NHS – Aneira Thomas.

My name is Aneira Thomas, and I was born at one minute past midnight on 5 July 1948 in a cottage hospital in a little corner of West Wales, Glannamman. That makes me the first baby to have been born into the NHS – something that I feel very proud of. As a young child, I didn't understand the significance of it, but by the time I got to school I was proud to tell people about my namesake: Aneurin Bevan, the great man who introduced the revolutionary NHS.

The NHS is a wonderful thing. Before the NHS, people died young because they couldn’t afford health care: only the privileged few could afford it. Bevan’s plan came from having watched this human suffering, and the equality of access it has provided is very important. The public has a role too though – we each have a responsibility to look after ourselves and lead healthier lives.

In my view, the NHS’s purpose in 2017 is the same as it was in 1948. But I’m concerned by some of the changes that have taken place during my lifetime, and the pressures the NHS is facing today.

One issue I’m worried about is funding. I think the NHS is underfunded and I’m worried about the impact of service closures and increased travel times on patients – I think that financial cutbacks are putting patients’ lives at risk. When Bevan set up the NHS, the plan was to help people live longer, healthier lives – I don’t understand why the government isn’t sticking to this plan, and ensuring the system continues to meet the needs of these people? 

I also think there’s quite a lot of misuse in the NHS – some money is spent on the ‘wrong things’, for example, cosmetic treatments. The NHS was set up to save lives. Part of the problem is the public’s expectations of the NHS, which I think have increased in my lifetime. When we have an ailment we expect somebody to dish out a prescription, and we expect to be seen at a certain time. Our expectations are quite high, and I think a lot of people take the NHS for granted – but it's not a bottomless pit.

As a former nurse, I’m also worried about the changing role of frontline professionals and their relationship with the government. When I was a nurse we all had a role to play, but these days more and more is done by managers. Frontline NHS staff are the experts that make the system tick, but I don’t think the government listens to them. NHS staff do not get the accolades they deserve, and it’s galling to see health professionals having to challenge the establishment all the time – for example in relation to pay. I feel very cross about the government’s policy of capping doctors’ and nurses’ pay (and the pay of public sector workers more generally). I know they call it austerity, but, in my opinion, it's hardship. I feel like sending Mr Jeremy Hunt Aneurin Bevan's plan for the NHS to remind him what it is for.

I think that because of these issues, there’s a lot of despondency among health professionals, something which is definitely not good for patients. The government should be doing more to keep doctors and nurses in the UK; it’s crucial they don't go looking abroad to work when we desperately need them in this country.

When I think about these challenges, I’m fearful for the NHS over the next 70 years.

I think that, to a large extent, the solution is financial. Funding within the NHS – and across government more broadly – could be allocated more effectively. But I also think people would be willing to pay a bit more to protect the NHS. I know this might be difficult for some people – it will depend on their financial position – but I’m clear there should be no compromise on the range of services provided.

One of the most important changes I want to see is more education. Education is important in ensuring individuals take some responsibility for their own health – years ago nearly everybody smoked because they hadn’t been taught otherwise, but now we’re much more aware of the effect it can have on us. But I think schools should also teach young people about the role of the NHS and how we can make it better. This is particularly important given how expensive treatments and drugs are now, and because of rising expectations; the public should be more aware – they should have access to more information – so they understand what the NHS can provide, and what the implications of our expectations are. 

I feel passionate about the preservation of this fantastic service, which provides support from the cradle to the grave, for every person in Great Britain. It means equality for all. As Aneurin Bevan said, ‘The National Health Service will stay as long as there are folk to fight for it.’ The NHS is our jewel in the crown, and it’s our duty to not let it slip away.

Comments

Anthony T

Position
Researcher,
Comment date
21 September 2017
I agree with much of what Aneira Thomas has said and particularly the cosmetic treatment thing. However what I doubt is the inference that if we provided more money the problems would be solved; I use the NHS and I do not agree that money alone will solve the problem. The truth is that if the NHS (as it is) did not exist today no one would invent it in it's existing form.

My personal experience of the somewhat mythical early diagnosis and treatment diatribe is not born out by fact and that discrepancy is reinforced by the amount of late stage cancers that are discovered following emergency admissions. Could it be that earlier referrals would benefit both patients and the NHS and late referrals ultimately cost the NHS much more money??

Linda Millard …

Position
retired ex nurse,
Organisation
.
Comment date
23 October 2017
I was born in wigan Lancs on 5th july 1948. and the NHS has been a good part of my life, i would love to know what number baby i was but alas i haven`t been able to find out. Born out of wedlock (as were many in those days after the war ) time and weight, things we treasure today , were not a priority then.

Hilary Joan morgan

Position
retired,
Comment date
09 December 2017

I was born at Chase farm hospital enfield 5th july 1948 at 9am...by C Section which I understand was very rare in 1948

Vic Slater

Position
retired,
Comment date
23 March 2018

When created, the NHS was fit for purpose and remained so for a number of years. However, as the demands on the NHS grew, primarily through people living longer, the service did not change adequately to accommodate the extra demands. I am given to believe that the NHS are the second largest employer in the world and it has grown to this size primarily by default and not strategic planning. We now find that both training and communication within hospitals in particular, seem to be at a low, which is resulting in staff leaving in their droves and this is largely because they are feeling undervalued. This creates the added burden of trying to recruit new staff, which is not cost effective. Far better to retain existing staff by making them feel needed and a part of the objective and a good starting point is through training and communication.

Peter Garmory

Position
Retired Engineer,
Comment date
18 June 2018

I was born at 7-15am at Nell lane hospital Manchester on the 5th July 1948, to my amazement the hospital and grounds are Apartments and housing, I went to visit my son, to my surprise he lives in the grounds of the hospital and you can see the origional building from his living room, shocked!

Teresa Howison…

Position
Retired hotelier,
Comment date
01 July 2018

I was born at the Elsie Inglis hospital Edinburgh at 1.35 am on the 5 th July 1948. I was one of the first babies born into the NHS. I have always attributed my good health to being an NHS baby.

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