Celebrating 70 years of the National Health Service

On 5 July 1948 the Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, launched the National Health Service.  2018 marks 70 years since its establishment and during this time it has become the world’s largest publicly-funded health service.

The NHS was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth, and at its heart remain the same 3 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.

The Hartley Institution, the first incarnation of the University, long pre-dates the founding of the NHS but not, of course, the provision of healthcare.  In 1894, the Institution was recognised by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons as a place of instruction for students preparing for their first medical examination.

The Hartley Institution in the High Street, Southampton, below the Bargate

Prior to this, Albert Temple Patterson, author of The University of Southampton, reports that local medical students attended lectures at the infirmary or in the “private residence of our medical men.”  A few students received instruction at the Institution with some winning scholarships to London hospitals.

The Hartley Institution became the Hartley College in 1896; Hartley University College in 1902 and the University College of Southampton in 1914.  The College calendars give details of the instruction offered for those students wishing to prepare for the medical profession.

Timetable from the Hartley University College Southampton Prospectus of day classes suitable for medical and dental students, session 1905-1905 [Univ. Coll. per LF783.5]

Courses for training health visitors were instituted in 1948-9 with Miss P.E.O’Connell appointed tutor-in-charge.  The venture was a  successful piece of co-operation between the University College and local authorities who were finding it difficult to secure qualified individuals for the new health service.

The establishment of a medical school was considered in 1950 but the University Grants Committee considered the current provision for medical education to be adequate.  However, two appointment were made for lecturers in medically related biological studies in the later 1950s, once the institution had received University status.

In 1967, the Royal Commission on Medical Education advised the Government that there was a strong case for establishing a new medical school in Southampton.  The previous year it had established that there needed to be an immediate and substantial increase in the number of doctors.

Professor Donald Acheson, Foundation Dean of the new Medical School, University of Southampton, 1968-78

Sir Kenneth Mather, (Vice Chancellor 1965-71) whose specialism was genetics, had been an enthusiastic supporter of the project.  Professor Donald Acheson arrived in October 1968 to be the foundation Dean and the first intake of students arrived two years later, in 1971.  Acheson was later appointed Chief Medical Officer under the Thatcher administration.

The nursing degree course was launched in 1982 with some 20 students.  This was greatly increased in 1995, the result of the Government’s recognition that most nurses should have degrees, and its decision to hand over training of the nurses from the NHS to the universities.

Planting a tree in honour of the first nursing graduates, October 1986 [MS 1/Phot/1/26/1]

A new school of Nursing and Midwifery was formed in 1995 by the amalgamation of the NHS College of Nursing and Midwifery with the exiting nursing group in the Faculty of Medicine.

The university maintains a presence at Southampton General in partnership with the NHS trust operating the hospital. It is home to some operations of the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Health Sciences, although these two faculties have bases on Highfield campus. As a teaching hospital, it is used by a range of undergraduate and postgraduate medical students, research academics and clinicians.

Aeriel view of Southampton General Hospital, 1996 [MS 1/Phot/13/1]

The General Hospital is the biggest site of the University Hospital Southampton which also manages the Princess Anne, Southampton Children’s Hospital, Countess Mountbatten House, Royal South Hants and the New Forest Birth Centre.

In 2007, the University chose to venerate Professor Dame Sally Claire Davies, DBE, FMedSci, FRS with an honorary degree.  She is the current Chief Medical Officer for England (appointed in 2010); the first woman to be appointed to the post which has substantial de facto influence over NHS policy.

Professor Sally Davies with the Chancellor, Sir John Parker in 2007 [MS 1/GR1/18/21]

From humble beginnings, the University is today a national leader in medical education.  Working in collaboration with the NHS, the Faculty of Medicine has trained thousands of doctors and scientists.  Nursing at the University is ranked ninth in the world and the Faculty of Health Sciences also provides a first-class environment for cutting edge research to prepare tomorrow’s physiotherapists, midwives, occupational therapists, clinical phycologists and podiatrists.

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