A Heage pensioner who almost died in 1942 at the age of four has wished the NHS many happy returns as it gears up for its 65th birthday on Friday (5 July).
Six years before the NHS was established, Ann Martin nearly lost her life to pneumonia.
And in the days before free health care, she would have died if her family doctor had not agreed to waive the bills that her mother and father could not afford to pay.
Thanks to her doctor’s generosity 71 years ago, Ann lived to tell the tale and to see the day six years later when the cost of doctors and life-saving treatment became free to all.
Ann, now aged 75, said: “The NHS does not always get things right but I would not wish to go through the agonising choice of letting a child die because the family was too poor to pay the doctor’s bill.”
Back in 1942, the family doctor told Ann’s parents that they would probably lose her but that it was worth trying a new antibiotic, penicillin, discovered by Alexander Fleming.
Ann takes up the story: “Dad knew the doctor’s bill would be as much as they could afford but the doctor said he would get the pills free if he agreed to write up the results.
“The doctor also told Dad that the pills had been given to Winston Churchill and he had recovered well but as far as he knew they had never been given to a child.
“Dr Anderson brought the pills and said he would be back the next day, he would either find me better or gone. Overnight my temperature went down from a dangerous level to high and I slept normally for the first time for four days.
“I remember my mother telling someone that the doctor didn’t even charge for his visits which was such a relief to my parents.
“Six years later the cost of the doctor and medicine became free for all.”
Ann started training to be a nurse at Stanmore Orthopaedic Hospital when she was 17, transferring after two years to the Royal Free Hospital, London. Instead of completing her training, she got married and lived an exciting life making a home for her family in the various overseas locations to which her husband’s job took them.
On her 40th birthday, after both her children had left home, she restarted her training and became a State Registered Nurse, now a Registered General Nurse. She now works for the NHS as a lay consultant.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
NHS Southern Derbyshire CCG represents 57 GP practices and is one of four clinical commissioning groups in the county responsible for the healthcare of people in Derbyshire.
On 5 July 1948, the NHS took control of 480,000 hospital beds in England and Wales. An estimated 125,000 nurses and 5,000 consultants were available to care for hospital patients.
The NHS Act, brought before Parliament in 1946, was created as part of a social welfare policy under Clement Atlee’s Labour government which aimed to provide universal and free benefits to all those in need.
The service was based on recommendations in the 1942 Beveridge report which called for a state welfare system.
The principle of the NHS was to provide a comprehensive service funded by taxation, available to all and free at the time of need.
With continued food rationing, a housing shortage, spiralling tuberculosis death rates and on the back of an exceptionally severe winter, the inception of a welfare state could not have come at a better time for post-war Britain.
In its first year, the NHS cost £248m to run, almost £140m more than had been originally estimated.
Charles Malkin, Communications Officer
Tel: 01246 514971/07450 014496