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1948 - 1950s

The National Health Service was launched on 5th July 1948. At Gartnavel Royal Hospital, a flag raising ceremony was...

The National Health Service was launched on 5th July 1948. At Gartnavel Royal Hospital, a flag raising ceremony was held. The flag depicted the sun rising – a suitable symbol for the great optimism about the new service.

During the first few weeks patients flooded into doctors’ surgeries – men with huge hernias restrained by trusses, women with prolapsed uteruses, thousands of near-deaf people without hearing aids, tens of thousands wearing second-hand spectacles.

Anuerin ‘Nye’ Bevan, the Minister of Health who was given the job of instituting the new National Health Service, said that the NHS would “lift the shadow from millions of homes”. Now it is clear that he was right.

It was the Second World War that made the NHS possible. The war produced a sense of social solidarity and cross-party consensus. In 1942, a famous report by Sir William Beveridge called for the creation of a National Health Service. The wartime coalition Government then produced a scheme for implementing that recommendation.

“Everybody, irrespective of means, age, sex or occupation shall have equal opportunity to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available”.

Once the war ended, the newly elected Government strove to turn this promise into reality.

The Western Regional Hospital Board (WRHB) was established under the National Health Service (Scotland) Act of 1947...

The Western Regional Hospital Board (WRHB) was established under the National Health Service (Scotland) Act of 1947. It was responsible for hospital services and clinics, both former local authority and voluntary institutions. Public health remained a local authority function whilst the provision of general practitioner services was the responsibility of various NHS Executive Councils. It was by far the largest Health Board in Scotland, covering the City of Glasgow and the counties of Argyll, Ayr, Clackmannan, Dumfries, Dumbarton, Kirkcudbright, Lanark, Renfrew, Stirling and Wigton. Approximately half of Scotland’s population were within the WRHB area.

The WRHB appointed Boards of Management to manage the hospitals and clinics on a day-to-day basis. The Regional Board retained responsibility for strategic planning and for the oversight of Board of Management finances. The WRHB also coordinated medical education, particularly at post graduate level, in liaison with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the University of Glasgow. It was abolished in 1974 when it was succeeded by the Greater Glasgow Health Board and four other boards (Argyll and Clyde, Ayrshire and Arran, Dumfries and Galloway, and Lanarkshire). NHS Argyll and Clyde was wound up in 2006 and since then NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has taken responsibility for the provision of healthcare in the City of Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, West Dunbartonshire, East Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde.

All become NHS hospitals under the joint Board of Management for Glasgow Mental Hospitals.

All become NHS hospitals under the joint Board of Management for Glasgow Mental Hospitals.

Until now children in hospital are often only allowed to see their parents for an hour on Saturdays and Sundays and a...

Until now children in hospital are often only allowed to see their parents for an hour on Saturdays and Sundays and are frequently placed in adult wards, with little attempt to explain to them why they are there or what is going to happen.
Paediatricians Sir James Spence in Newcastle and Alan Moncriff at Great Ormond Street are making considerable steps to change this, demonstrating that such separation is traumatic for children. As a result, daily visiting is introduced gradually

In 1951, rising levels of tuberculosis (also known as consumption) and a chronic shortage of beds and nurses led to a...

In 1951, rising levels of tuberculosis (also known as consumption) and a chronic shortage of beds and nurses led to a special scheme for Scottish patients to be treated in Swiss hospitals, where it was believed the fresh mountain air was an aid to recovery.
Five years later Scottish Secretary of State James Stuart announced “the most ambitious campaign against pulmonary tuberculosis yet attempted in Scotland.” The principal weapon was a 1957 mass X-ray programme to detect those infected and treat them and those with whom they had close contact.
During a .ve week Glasgow X-ray campaign more than 75% of adults in the city (700,000) had been tested. 2,200 of those tested had TB and were treated and 1,000 of them required hospitalisation.
Later analysis, however, noted that the number discovered was roughly the same as would be detected by the normal working of the NHS.

An interview with Nurse M, Thelma Bench and Jeanette Hawthorn Nurse M, used to manage a local shop in the early days...

An interview with Nurse M, Thelma Bench and Jeanette Hawthorn

Nurse M, used to manage a local shop in the early days of the NHS. After many discussions with her friend, they both decided to apply for a nursing course and follow in the footsteps of their relatives.

In 1951 Nurse M applied for a place at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and moved from Inverclyde to live in the nursing quarters, which was compulsory. The Nursing Sister ran the Nursing Quarters and also lived on site.

After passing the entrance exam, Nurse M underwent preliminary training at the nursing school for three months based in Lancaster Crescent in the Hyndland area of Glasgow. After the three month period, nurses would then sit a House Exam and once passed, they would then become a student nurse and undergo practical experience in the hospitals.

In the early days, there were very few married nurses. Nurses were addressed as either Nurse or Staff Nurse, no first name terms, and the Doctors were addressed as Sir. When the Doctor carried out a ward round the Nurses would turn down their cuffs and stand to attention. When returning to their ward duties they would turn their cuffs back up to continue nursing. The canteen arrangements back then were different in that the different types of staff would be divided: the Auxilliaries would have a table together; the Staff Nurses would sit together; and the Administration Team would sit together.

The Health Service in the Clyde area in 1948 consisted of nine hospitals: Greenock Royal Infirmary, Duncan McPherson, ENT Hospital, Greenock Eye Infirmary, Broadstone Hospital, Broadfield Hospital, Larkfield Hospital, Gateside Hospital, Rankin Memorial Hospital and Smithston Hospital. There was a General Board overseeing all hospitals; the Doctors would look after the clinical staff; the Hospital Administrator would look after the Buildings; and Admin Services and the Matron (who was "classed as a god") looked after all the Nursing staff, Catering Staff, Laundry Staff and Domestic Staff.

The Hospital Wards were known as "The Florence Nightingale Wards" which eventually became four-bedded bays. On the Night Shift, the nurse would wake patients at 4.30 am to carry out general nursing duties.

The Uniform in the early days consisted of a White Dress which consisted of rigid starched collar and cuffs. An apron was also worn, which was easily changed if dirty and the hat was always to be sitting perfectly in a butterfly style.

There were no Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists or Chiropodists - these duties were all carried out by the Nursing Staff who often worked split duties, sometimes 11am to 2 pm then a break until 4 pm to 8 pm. There was no Occupational Health Department and if you suffered a sore back you were expected to take some strong pain killers and get on with your work! There were no such things as Family Friendly Policies, Parental Leave or Carers Leave.

Interestingly, the District Nurses were employed by the Council. The Nursing staff were allocated a maid to carry out cleaning duties followed by a thorough inspection by the Nursing Officer. Orderlies were employed to provide breakfast. Staff would leave their uniform at work either in their locker or send it to the Laundry for an intensive wash.

Patients were cared for by the Nursing Staff, Antibiotics were very much in their infancy and nine-out-of-ten times it was good Nursing Care that helped patients to better health.

The Government introduced prescription charges in January 1952. The charge was one shilling.

The Government introduced prescription charges in January 1952. The charge was one shilling.

Sir Richard Doll establishes a clear link between smoking and lung cancer.In the 1940s, British scientist Doll begins...

Sir Richard Doll establishes a clear link between smoking and lung cancer.
In the 1940s, British scientist Doll begins research into lung cancer after incidences of the disease rise alarmingly. He studies lung cancer patients in 20 London hospitals, and he expects to reveal that the cause is fumes from coal fires, car fumes or Tarmac.
His findings surprise him and he publishes a study in the British Medical Journal, co-written with Sir Austin Bradford Hill, warning that smokers are far more likely than non-smokers to die of lung cancer. Doll gives up smoking two-thirds of the way through his study and lives to be 92.

The 60 years since the birth of the NHS have seen major changes in psychiatric treatment. The 1950s are often held to...

The 60 years since the birth of the NHS have seen major changes in psychiatric treatment. The 1950s are often held to be the crucial period, as it was during this decade that the main drug treatments were developed and introduced. For the first time drugs were available which did more than just sedate agitated patients. Drugs with anti-psychotic, anti-depressant and mood stabilising effects were introduced. These drugs have increased the effectiveness of treatment and contributed to the rise of community-based psychiatry.

The most famous of Glasgow psychiatrists, R D Laing, was involved in an experiment in social psychiatry at Gartnavel Royal Hospital in the mid-1950s.

Researchers were appointed to look into the effect of the environment on patients and the young R D Laing, fresh from Army service, joined them with a suggestion. It was that twelve of the most chronically ill patients spend each day with the same two nurses in a pleasant room with opportunities for communication and activity. If the patients became noisy, excited or abusive that was to be met with acceptance.

As they grew fond of the nurses, the ‘Rumpus Room’ patients became less disruptive and they employed themselves on what they saw the nurses doing. In a year or so they were well enough to leave hospital. Laing concluded that social psychiatry rather than drug therapy represented the way forward. His subsequent writings, from ‘The divided self’ onwards helped fuel a public debate on psychiatry which still continues.

Recent years have seen a network of community mental health resource centres being created. Psychiatry has been brought closer to the population it serves and no longer works out of remote institutions.

Built by Aga cooker company and installed at Belvidere Hospital. The idea of Intensive Care Units was developed fro...

Built by Aga cooker company and installed at Belvidere Hospital. The idea of Intensive Care Units was developed from this experience.

Polio and pioneering intensive care

Epidemics of poliomyelitis occurred across Europe in the years following the Second World War. Many young and active people died or were disabled. Nancy Riach - Scotland's swimming champion who died at the age of 20 - was amongst the victims.

Polio could cause temporary paralysis. When the chest muscles and diaphragm were paralysed, patients' breathing became feeble and they could die from lack of oxygen. So, artificial respirators were developed – the so-called ‘iron lungs’.

In Copenhagen, where there was a very serious epidemic, Professor Lassen realised that some patients put on respirators were drowning in their own saliva because their throat muscles were paralysed and they could not swallow. During 1953, Lassen organised teams of medical students to hand pump oxygen for polio patients suffering from paralysis of both the chest and throat. The students imitated normal breathing…they pumped oxygen in to the patient's lungs with pauses. In this way the lives of paralysed patients could be saved.

Dr Peter McKenzie of Glasgow learnt of the Danes' success. After a visit to Copenhagen, Dr McKenzie arranged for mechanical equipment to be ordered which would do the work done by hand in Denmark. The first intermittent positive pressure ventilator in Britain was built by Aga (the manufacturers of cooking ranges) and installed at Belvidere Hospital in 1955. This equipment incorporated a ‘cuff’ which prevented saliva draining into the lungs. The method of treatment and nursing attention required by these patients provided one of the practical experiences from which present-day intensive care units trace their origins.

The introduction of the Salk and Sabin vaccines from 1956 onward largely eliminated polio as an epidemic disease.

First new hospital in Britain since Second World War (between 1945 and 1955 repayment of war debt to the USA was equi...

First new hospital in Britain since Second World War (between 1945 and 1955 repayment of war debt to the USA was equivalent to the cost of 200 new hospitals).

Vale of Leven District General Hospital was originally built at Alexandria as an emergency project in 1955. The hospital was built on endowment land of the Henry Brock Memorial Hospital which subsequently became an integral part of the new hospital. The Henry Brock Hospital was finally demolished in 1978.

Tuberculosis (TB) One of the great achievements of the NHS has been to bring about an enormous reduction in levels o...

Tuberculosis (TB)

One of the great achievements of the NHS has been to bring about an enormous reduction in levels of tuberculosis. In Glasgow and the larger towns of the West of Scotland, it was as a disease of the lungs that TB crippled and killed most of its victims. Over-crowed homes and pubs were ideal places for the infection to pass from one person to another.

During the 1950s, new drugs, especially Steptomycin, gave the opportunity to deal effectively with TB. In an effort to identify all TB sufferers and treat them simultaneously (so as to prevent mutual re-infection) a massive Chest X-ray Campaign was conducted in Glasgow in March 1957.

Thirty-seven mobile X-ray vans converged on Glasgow from all over the country. In the following five weeks, 714,915 people were screened and 2,842 new TB cases identified and treated.

The campaign was widely regarded as a triumph of medical science and of organisation and record-keeping. Clerical staff had to create huge numbers of record cards, maintain a massive card index and send out hundreds of thousands of letters and postcards.

Although TB infection is a fraction of the levels before the 1950s, it has never gone away. There has always been a background level of infection of two hundred or so cases each year – as ever, it is the poorest and most vulnerable in our society who tend to be affected.

A Fundamental scientific discovery is made of a substance produced by cells to ward off attack by viruses. Born in Gl...

A Fundamental scientific discovery is made of a substance produced by cells to ward off attack by viruses. Born in Glasgow into a Russian-Jewish family, Alick Isaacs read medicine at the University of Glasgow.
Taking up a career in research, he began to study the response of the body to different strains of the ‘flu’ virus in 1947. He joined the staff of the World Influenza Centre at the National Institute for Medical Research in London in 1951, rising to become its Director ten years later.
In 1957, with Swiss colleague Jean Lindemann, he discovered interferon, a naturally occurring antiviral protein produced by virus-infected cells. Interferon was later determined to have application in cancer treatment.

Among the many changes in nursing since 1948, the departure of matrons from our hospitals is one which was pioneered ...

Among the many changes in nursing since 1948, the departure of matrons from our hospitals is one which was pioneered in Glasgow. In the 1960s Miss Anne Court-Brown, Matron of the Royal Infirmary, introduced the first pilot scheme under which grades (related to actual duties carried out) replaced the old hierarchy with matron at the top.

As healthcare has become ever more scientific and technical, the work of nurses has changed enormously. Nurse training based on ‘hands-on’ experience in the hospitals has gradually been replaced by theoretical nurse education based in colleges and universities. An important early experiment in nurse education was carried out in Glasgow.

In 1957, Miss Edith Manners launched the Glasgow Royal Infirmary experimental course of training for nurses. The course was designed so that the students could sit State Registration examinations after only two years - one year shorter than the normal course. The students spent less time in hospital wards and did less practical work than the ordinary trainees. They were highly successful when they sat their examinations.

Their practical abilities on the wards were then developed during an ‘intern’ year. The experiment achieved many of its objectives. For example, the ‘drop-out’ rate was cut and the scheme succeeded in attracting high scoring school leavers. Most importantly, the experimental course provided valuable lessons on which latter developments were based.

This guide was published on 21st June 1957, and contains information on the Chest Clinic, Surgical Theatres and Psych...

This guide was published on 21st June 1957, and contains information on the Chest Clinic, Surgical Theatres and Psychiatric Unit.  You can download it using the following link.

A programme to vaccinate everyone under the age of 15 against polio and diphtheria is launched. One of the primary ai...

A programme to vaccinate everyone under the age of 15 against polio and diphtheria is launched.
One of the primary aims of the NHS is to promote good health, not simply to treat illness, and the introduction of the polio and diphtheria vaccine is a key part of the NHS’s plans.
Before this programme, cases of polio could climb as high as 8,000 in epidemic years, with cases of diphtheria as high as 70,000, leading to 5,000 deaths. This programme sees everyone under the age of 15 vaccinated and will lead to an immediate and dramatic reduction in cases of both diseases.

Today it is a common experience for parents to see a ‘picture’ of their baby before it is born when the mother has a ...

Today it is a common experience for parents to see a ‘picture’ of their baby before it is born when the mother has a scan. This scan uses ultrasound, a sound with a pitch far above the range we can hear. The first such pictures of unborn babies were produced in Glasgow by Professor Ian Donald and his team in the late 1950s.

The medical use of ultrasound for making pictures of the inside of the body was first suggested in the 1930s. However, it needed advances in Sonar, which is used to detect submarines and shoals of fish, and in electronics before success was possible.

In 1955, Professor Donald’s experiments, at the firm of Babcock and Wilcox in Renfrew, showed that it was possible to probe the human body with ultrasound waves. This was followed by co-operation with Kelvin Hughes (later Smith Industries) in Hillington. The first pictures were published in 1958. Each picture took a few minutes to produce.

The early work in the West of Scotland and elsewhere was followed by tremendous developments. These were achieved by the close co-operation of doctors, engineers, physicists and technicians. We now have scanners which provide highly detailed moving images, showing the flow of blood in the body.

Ultrasound is used today in virtually all hospitals and it is particularly valuable for examining the heart, liver, kidneys, spleen, eye muscles and other ‘soft’ parts of the body.