70 Years of the NHS

July 5th 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the UK’s National Health Service. The NHS is the nation’s most important and cherished institution, playing a vital role in society. The values of the NHS were established by the Minister for Health, Aneurin Bevan at its creation in 1948 with three core principles:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

Before the foundation of the NHS, health services had to be paid for individually and many services relied on charitable donations to carry out their work. The Screen Archive South East holds several films made prior to 1948 that aimed to raise funds and donations for hospitals and health services. These include St Bartholomew’s Hospital film from the 1930s which takes a tour of this voluntary hospital in Rochester and informs the viewer of the costs involved in the delivery of its health care.

St Bartholomew's Hospital (1930s)
St Bartholomew’s Hospital (1930s)

The Royal Surrey County Hospital Fundraising Films from 1936 make use of a drama alongside a more factual presentation with the aim of encouraging the public to donate funds. The Princess Alice Memorial Hospital in Eastbourne also used film in 1938 to demonstrate how donations were used and to encourage further giving.

The Royal Surrey County Hospital Fundraising Films (1936)
The Royal Surrey County Hospital Fundraising Films (1936)

A new wing of the Ramsgate General Hospital is opened in May 1948; .  The Southlands Hospital in Shoreham-by-Sea is featured in the film The River Runs Through our Town (1962) which tells of its history from workhouse to hospital and nursing school.

The 1960s and 1970s saw a growth in hospital building and development programmes and the archive holds films showing new hospitals, wards and wings including a new, and largely empty, William Harvey Hospital when it opened in Kent in 1979.

The William Harvey Hospital (1979)
The William Harvey Hospital (1979)

The training film Fire Danger in Hospitals narrated by Raymond Baxter, shows how fires can start and spread in hospital buildings. Whilst the film A New Way of Caring from 1974, made to be shown to NHS staff, outlines plans for reform, 25 years after the start of the NHS.

The Screen Archive South East holds many more films that illustrate the work of the NHS and related services. Search the collections or browse the Public Services theme, which brings together films in the collection from before the NHS with those from the last 70 years of publicly funded health, social and public services in the UK.