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The First NHS (ePub)

How John Tomley’s Work Led to Modern Healthcare

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Medicine & Health P&S History > British History P&S History > Social History

By Emma Snow
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 9.2 MB (.epub)
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 32 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399038188
Published: 28th November 2023


£9.98 Print price £22.00

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We all think the NHS was first dreamed up by Nye Bevan when he became minister of health in 1945. Yet experiments with the NHS and welfare state in fact started many years before.

Inspired by a doctor who coined the phrase “national health service” in 1910, John Tomley and David Davies took steps to pilot the first ever national health service, focusing on TB in Wales, the WNMA. Through the findings of the WNMA’s work, as well as John’s work as a local health commissioner and UK leader of the largest health service providers, the friendly societies, John campaigned for effective treatment for TB, including prevention and a national health service.

John successfully led the campaign for the government’s Welsh TB Inquiry, which led directly to the Beveridge Report and the founding of the NHS and wider welfare state in 1948. His family then forgot about his work, due to the ravages of a genetic disease, so John’s story has never been told. Meanwhile the NHS, which John helped to found, also led to a cure for this disease for his great-great-granddaughter.

The moral of this surprising tale? If John can do it, any of us can. We have what John described as the “golden keys’ in our hands. By understanding the crucial information John gave us from his life’s work, the importance of fighting all the Beveridge Report’s Five Giants at once, we can tackle the social determinants of health today, and change people’s lives for our generation and future generations.

Did you know Wales had a national health service 38 years before England?

Welsh Histories

"A remarkable man who changed everything. John Tomley was driven by the belief that health is a universal right for everyone and not a privilege for the few."

Professor John Wynn-Jones, retired rural GP and professor of rural health

"A deeply personal and moving account of a great lost hero of the National Health Service. Beautifully researched and told, this is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of our NHS, its current challenges, and where we should be heading if we want to hold on to this precious institution."

Katie Lee, Writer

"A fascinating and personal story of the beginnings of the NHS, reminding us of its vital importance in the current climate of crises and loss of confidence."

Dr Russ Hewson, NHS Consultant Intensivist and Anaesthetist

"John John and David’s tireless and selfless investment of many years played a truly incredible, pivotal and integral part in pushing forward a health service for the less privileged people of Great Britain, directly laying the groundwork for Nye Bevan to set up the NHS in 1948."

Aneria Thomas, first baby born on the NHS and author

This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and I would read more of their work.

NetGalley, The_Secret_Bookreview .

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The First NHS, by Emma Snow, looks at the development of organizations and measures to promote public supported Health Care in the UK, and specifically in Wales before the development of the NHS. The one aspect that draws my attention is the wealth of details of the subtle means, by which "radical administration" sought to build a comprehensive medical coverage. The mere success of this program was the basis for the NHS. The work done, in simple steps producing a radically new way of seeing healthcare and community development.

What Snow does, is tear down the historical narrative that reduces what happened to but a few events. This work is not only readable but comes up with a good argument to support the methods used. Those methods of using administrative subtitles to create profound change is compelling. The history itself is a great testament to how the success of the NHS was grounded. I highly recommend this book, not only as an exemplary history, and but also as a very useful narrative that may prove helpful to us in the development of progressive struggles that are present today.

NetGalley, Willy Marz

Author featured at GWR Train Naming Event for NHS 75th Anniversary - find out more here


As featured on BBC Radio Leeds!

BBC Radio Leeds

About Emma Snow

Emma Snow is chief executive of health and social care charity Community Opportunity, works in change management for an NHS acute trust, and is an independent member of Oxfam GB’s Audit & Risk Committee.
Emma has two decades’ experience in the health and social care sector. She has been director of finance for national charities including the Refugee Council and Terrence Higgins Trust, as well as a trustee of charities including Anti-Slavery International and HDYO.
Emma lives with her husband and daughter in the Cotswolds.

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