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The NHS - The Story so Far (Paperback)

British History P&S History Social History

By Ellen Welch
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 50 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399000819
Published: 26th November 2020

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The coronavirus pandemic in 2020 has changed life as we know it and thrust the NHS into the spotlight. A nation in lockdown has adorned windows with rainbows and stepped onto doorsteps every Thursday to celebrate the people who are risking their lives by turning up to work. But as the grim reports of deaths from the disease cumulate, along with stories of insufficient protective equipment for staff, there is hope that the crisis will raise awareness and bring change to the way the NHS and its people are treated.

At midnight on 5 July 1948, the National Health Service was born with the founding principal to be free at the point of use and based on clinical need rather than on a person’s ability to pay. Over seventy years since its formation, these core principals still hold true, but the world has changed. Persistent underfunding has not kept pace with increased demand for healthcare, leading to longer waiting times, staffing shortages and low morale.

This book traces the history of our health service, from Victorian healthcare and the early 20th century, through a timeline of change to the current day, comparing the problems and illnesses of 1948 to those we face today. Politics and funding are demystified and the effects of the pandemic are discussed, alongside personal stories from frontline staff and patients who have experienced our changing NHS.

Ellen's book takes us on an emotional journey through the history of our beloved NHS. This should be compulsory reading for anyone who thinks the NHS is safe in the hands of anyone but the Labour Party. Absolutely enthralling.

Books Monthly

I found this book interesting and enjoyed reading about the English health care system both before and after the NHS was formed. It provides great insite into the changing structure and performance of the system. The first hand accounts from the staff working in the NHS show how things have changed and how challenging it is. The Covid-19 update to this book provided a good time line of events and is a great reference of the pandemic to look back on in years to come.

NetGalley, Nicola Barker

Article: ‘A new chapter in the history of the NHS’, words by Sarah French

Carlisle Living, March 2021

This book is timely, so timely. I think that the world is due for a really good book about the NHS, including a timeline of its past, present and its future. In fact, with all that is going on with the global pandemic, I think that this book (or those which may follow in this area) are needed in order to tell the story of these complex historical events.

NetGalley, A Home Library

Article: ‘Hero Of The Hour: Cumbrian-based GP Dr Ellen Welch pays tribute to our heroic if flawed NHS’ as featured by

This England, March 2021

I enjoyed this book, I thought it was well written and gave a good insight into the NHS.

NetGalley, Susie Ford

Click here to read the full review

Medical Journalists Association

We should all know that the NHS was created just after the Second World War by the Atlee government in order to give help and treatment to everybody as a free service whether they could afford to pay or not. The book goes right from the beginning and looks at why we needed an NHS and looks at why it needs to go on and grow further in an attempt to achieve as much need as possible. This book also includes an added chapter all about the Coronavirus ad how the NHS is dealing with that in various ways. The book also contains a number of personal stories from both staff and patients.

This book is written by Ellen Welch who also happens to be a practicing GP, so you’re actually getting a book written by someone who has been at the coalface of the NHS and has experienced it growing over her time. This is an excellent little book that has been well written, researched and planned out, it was great that the final chapter about Covid-19 has been written because in these worrying times it is great to get a viewpoint from the NHS on the pandemic. The book is interspersed with stories and recollections that help give that personal touch, and the number of photos also help a great deal. I really enjoyed this book and I enjoyed the historical angle best, the reasons how and why the NHS came about. It was an enjoyable read and while I would never criticise the NHS, you won’t find me being critical of this, I recommend this book to all and be proud of one of the few things Britain has done well in its history.
5 stars

Read the full review here

UK Historian

I found the book very interesting as it really explains how the NHS came about and how it has developed over the years. The update to deal with Covid-19 was informative.

NetGalley, Lisa Hodges

Exploring our one-of-a-kind health system from its inception in July 1948, brought about by Clement Atlee's Labour government, through to its struggles to continue operating as normal during the pandemic, The NHS: The Story So Far is a fascinating, informative and well-researched book. It is a reprint of The NHS At 70: A Living History and now includes a chapter that explores how the NHS has coped with the COVID-19 crisis. It begins by considering what life was like for people pre-NHS and explains a little about the Spanish flu of 1918 as it was the last pandemic that overwhelmed the British; it is a crisis we really should have learned lessons from it but it appears we haven't and history is repeating itself once again.

Welch explains how the increasing demand for free-at-the-point-of-service healthcare has inevitably led to the NHS evolving to attempt to meet those demands. I found the anecdotes, facts and photographs helped the book come alive. The diaries of NHS frontline workers detailing the pressures they feel really was thought-provoking and gave me a profound appreciation for what doctors, nurses and other medical staff do for us each and every day. I strongly believe that healthcare should be based on the patients need rather than how much they can afford to pay and I hope it stays that way. It's definitely a concern that there is often talk about selling out and privatising it, which I pray does not happen. This is an engrossing, intriguing and eminently readable book and one I highly recommend.

NetGalley, Lou @readers_retreat

It's a true testament to the NHS we in England know and love, and anyone can see the author's passion for it. In a time when worry for the future of the NHS runs rampant, Welch and the many contributors to her work reply that our health service is far from broken and, as Bevan supposedly said, will last as long as there are those willing to fight for it.

NetGalley, Sarah Curzon

About Ellen Welch

Ellen Welch is a GP based in Cumbria. She has worked in various roles both within the NHS and around the world over the last 15 years including work as a ski field doctor in New Zealand, an expedition medic in Tanzania and a Cruise ship doctor all over the world. She has won awards at both the BMA and MJA annual awards for her previous publications.

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