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The NHS at 70 (ePub)

A Living History

P&S History > British History > Victorian History P&S History > Social History

By Dr Ellen Welch
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 12.4 MB (.epub)
Pages: 149
Illustrations: 50
ISBN: 9781526717399
Published: 9th July 2018


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At midnight on 5th 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. Seventy years since its formation, these core principals still hold true, although the world we now live in is a very different place to the post war era in which it was formed, and the long term sustainability of the service in its current form is questionable.

This book traces the history of our health service, from Victorian healthcare in the early 20th century, through a timeline of change to the current day, comparing the problems and illnesses of 1948 to those we face seventy years later. Politics, funding, and healthcare systems around the world are demystified and we present case studies, views and snapshots from history from people who have experienced our changing NHS.

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

The book is very interesting, nicely written, and at just shy of 150 pages, it is worth a read... I gave the book 5 stars.

Read the full review here

Coffee and Books

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Oxford University Press

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Independent Practitioner Today, April 2019

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Independent Practitioner Today, March 2019

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Independent Practitioner Today, February 2019

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Independent Practitioner Today, December 2018

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Informative and entertaining.
This is a most interesting and enjoyable read. I would recommend to all NHS workers and users.

Amazon Customer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ A must read.

Dr Welch writes with knowledge and candour about the NHS and the personal testimonies and reflections scattered through the text add colour and life. Those of us privileged to have been trained in, and to have worked as part of the NHS, no matter how small a cog, know the sense of pride that it can bring. Every day those who work in the Health Service strive to do the best for all of us. And we are so lucky that they do. This history of the NHS is about people, their humanity and shared purpose.

Read it, give thanks that our forefathers envisaged a National Health Service for all, and do whatever you can to help to preserve it. And tell someone else about this book.

Amazon Customer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Great knowledge about the structure of the NHS- really enjoyed it!

This book is great. It sets out (in brief) the history of western medicine prior to the introduction of the NHS in 1948. It could have covered Ancient Medicine,Hippocrates and Galen in a bit more detail, but admittedly it's not the main focus of the book. Ellen broadly covers things well from the Middle Ages onwards.
See full review here

Amazon Customer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ An easy to read and entertaining book, balancing history, anecdotes, and opinion. For all NHS users!
This is no dry history book, and has something for everyone. The ‘history’ bit is broken down chronologically making it easy to follow. It takes you from where we were, to where we are, and finally where we may end up. In the latter chapters it attempts to demystify the current complex system, highlighting the fragility of the NHS. It is written in a fun and relaxed style and is laced with wit, amusing anecdotes, gruesome and interesting facts. The author has interwoven ‘my NHS stories’ throughout the book, written by real people, with real stories giving the history its ‘life’, alongside the fascinating pictures and amusing cartoons. The author is a doctor, giving the book credibility and authenticity, and is clearly someone who is very passionate and extremely knowledgeable about the current healthcare system. Her own experiences appear throughout this book making it all more real. It should be compulsory for every user of the NHS to read this book. It's an NHS education, an NHS appreciation, and full of inspiration. For those who are proud of the NHS and want to protect it, then knowledge is key, and this book will help arm you!

Amazon Customer

This is a fascinating and humbling examination of the founding of the National Health Service, through social, medical and political developments that have impacted it, right up to the present day.

Cumbria magazine, January 2019

I would recommend this book as required reading for politicians and health service managers. It is also a useful starting point for historians wishing to embark on further studies.

British Society for the History of Medicine

Extracts from book as featured by

Independent Practitioner Today, November 2018

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Independent Practitioner Today, October 2018

In the 1930s and 1940s, dentures were popular wedding or birthday presents. Patients had all their teeth out to avoid multiple, costly, painful trips to the dentist.

This may seem a bizarre way to begin a review about a book on the first 70 years of the NHS, but in its first nine months the NHS provided 33 million sets of dentures. It seemed everyone wanted a pair, if not two or three. (The population in 1948 was 49.4 million, meaning that, on average, more than half the population had false teeth.)
They came free — a dramatic expression of the triumph for the social ideal that underpinned the NHS – treatment free at the time of use. Ellen Welch, a GP and cruise ship doctor, reports that in the giddy early days, dentists saw over 100 patients a day. Many had to be turned away even though surgeries were open seven days a week. By the end of the NHS’s first year, many dentists were earning £4000 a year, compared to £1,400 immediately before, almost double the average GP salary.

Congratulations to Ellen Welch for highlighting early NHS dentistry in this way. There is perhaps no better example of health service abuse.

Read full review here

John Illman, Medical Journalists' Association

Listed in 'Books of the month' feature

Lets Talk!, October 2018

...well written and researched...

NZ Crown Mines

About Dr Ellen Welch

Dr Ellen Welch is a GP based in Cumbria. She spent the pandemic working from home as a remote GP for an NHS Out of Hours provider, and being a pregnant mum. She has worked in various roles both within the NHS and overseas since qualifying, including a season as a Ski field Medic in New Zealand, an expedition doctor climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and over ten years as a senior ships doctor on cruise ships around the World. Her prior publications have won awards from both the BMA and the MJA.

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