In July 1948 the National Health Service (NHS) was born and was as much celebrated then as it is today for its delivery of free health care for everyone.
What would we have done without it 73 years later with Covid? Wendy Heath shares her own experiences from 1947 on the eve of the birth of the NHS.
“My memories go back to 1947 when my parents, brother and I moved to Droxford Hampshire. Before the war my father worked at Ipswich Hospital as an Administrator during the Poor Law system, and my mother trained as a nurse and midwife. My father spent the war years in the RAF and once the war was over, my parents decided to take over the running of a workhouse in Burnley, Lancashire. I believe that the conditions were so awful that we only stayed six months.
“On arrival at Droxford we had a small cottage in the grounds of the workhouse and I started at the village school. Shortly after I was diagnosed with Infantile Paralysis, a form of polio, and nursed at home by my mother until fit enough to go to Gosport Hospital twice each week for exercises.
“During the spring of 1948 the Government put into operation a service for all people to get free health care and access to treatment in hospital. I remember my parents getting very excited at the prospect of being able to make changes to the running of the workhouse and when the big day arrived, we had flags and bunting and my parents put on a special tea for the inmates. My father immediately ordered wheelchairs and new bedding; we were given red and grey army blankets and I still have one today. In October 1948 we moved to a bigger workhouse in Devises, Wiltshire which my parents eventually changed to a geriatric hospital.”
Wendy herself went on to train as a nurse and midwife. Now retired, she is a hard-working trustee for Suffolk East Federation of WIs. To find out more about our inspirational organisation, check our website at www.sefwi.org.uk