70 Years of the NHS: Then & Now

Posted on May 2019 By Aaron Liffen

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Now vs Then

July 5 1948, marked the birth of the NHS, with cotton caps and dress aprons it is fair to say nursing has come a long way in the past 70 years. Day Webster take you through the NHS then and now bringing you the history and the people behind our healthcare service.

Launched by Aneurin Bevan at Park Hospital in Manchester, now known as Trafford General Hospital, the NHS has transformed the health and wellbeing of the nation, becoming the envy of the worlds healthcare. 

Since its inception the NHS has brought us medical advancements and improvements that has helped take the UK’s life expectancy from 66 years old in 1948 to 81 years old this current day. It is thanks to the NHS that the UK has all but rid of diseases such as polio and pioneers new procedures such as the worlds first liver, heart and lung transplant.

However whilst the NHS has changed our lives for the better, none of this could have been done without the hardworking men and women that help make this healthcare service the best in the world.

Super Nurse

In the 1950’s nurses were often answerable to ward sisters, matrons and doctors, with the hierarchical structure meaning the role of a nurse often did not receive the same respect it does to day. Known as an obedient and unquestioning workforce, nurses were very much at the whims of ward sisters meaning being a nurse was as much about learning a sisters preferences as it was about knowing about patient care.

However fast forward 70 years a the role of a nurse has transformed completely from matron/sister supports to specialist in care. With innovation as a catalyst for change, nurses now have the access to further learning, becoming specialist in a range of healthcare fields. As patient demands grow, so did the need for these specialist nurse, which is why it is now rare to meet a nurse who does not hold a degree or additional qualifications. Nursing is a now a role admired and respected by the public with what was once considered a job is now seen as a successful career.

All hands-on deck

A major difference over the pass 70 years is the number of patients nurses now treat. It is a simple fact that the population is living longer ( with thanks to the NHS ) and therefore the chances of those entering hospital is higher. This being said the advancements of the NHS has meant patients are spending less time in hospital, what once was a 3 week stay in hospital for a hernia is now a 24 hour treatment. 

This has meant that unfortunately nurses get less time to get to know patients, and spend more time managing a complex variety of medical knowledge, however this does not mean the car our nurses put in is any less, it simply means they have less time. Modern nurses are the definition of multi-taskers, with there goodwill and passion for helping others the main driving force behind this great service.

As mentioned over the last 70 years the NHS has grown to become an essential part of the UK, and role within the NHS is something to be proud of. In 1948 a males nurse would have been virtually unheard of, however today they make up over 11% of the workforce.
In addition to this the workforce has changed in diversity with the 1948’s NHS being made up of predominantly British, and former colonies such as India and the Caribbean. However as we hit the 20th century we have seem a greater introduction of European nurses and built a reliance on these nurses to aid the continued growth of our National Health Service. Such diversity has not come without its challenges, the implementation of IELTS testing and caps on immigration means the number of nurses joining us from neighbouring European countries has slowly decline, not to mention Brexit bringing its own set of challenges to re-structure.

Happy Birthday NHS

One thing for sure is there is no bigger and better workforce than the NHS. Each and everyday our nurses perform outstanding acts of care, kindness and multi-tasking in order to keep us health. With their skill, knowledge and patience tested everyday, what nurses complete in 24 hours is work for a lifetime and for this we thank each and everyone one of you. Happy 70th Birthday NHS.