Friday, 6 July 2018

Happy Birthday to You!

This week, we've been very busy celebrating a very special birthday. Over to Archivist Louise...

Yesterday marked 70 years of the National Health Service in the UK - a health system controlled by government, funded by taxation, free at the point of use, committed to universal care and offering comprehensive coverage. When we learnt that proposals were being taken for potential displays to fill our exhibition spaces here on the 6th floor of the Main Library, we couldn't resist suggesting an exhibition highlighting how our region and the health of its people has been transformed in those 70 years.

Our exhibition - Dawn of a New Era - opened in April, and you can see it here at the Main Library until 15th August. But for the anniversary of the NHS Appointed Day yesterday, we wanted to do something extra-special by hosting a talk on why we chose what we did for the exhibition, and to give people an opportunity to see some extra archive material that didn't quite make it into the display cases.

It was wonderful to see so many people come along to hear how our collections tell stories of changing healthcare over the years, from the treatment that was available before 1948 to cutting edge breakthroughs in bioengineering. It was particularly lovely to welcome members of NHS Lothian staff past and present, including members of the Pelican League of nurses trained at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh School of Nursing, some of whom came along wearing their prized Pelican badges!

The talk covered Edinburgh's pride in its high quality voluntary hospitals, funded entirely by public donations and fundraising...

Small flag badges were sold on pageant days to raise money for the voluntary hospitals that were funded entirely by public donation before the NHS (LHB1/35, c. 1930s)
and the precedents for state control of healthcare in Scotland that made both medical staff and civil servants more prepared for 5th July 1948, particularly wartime initiatives such as the Department of Health for Scotland-run Emergency Medical Service.

Ward 32, Bangour. Formally part of Bangour Village Hospital, this villa was taken over as part of the wartime Emergency Medical Service. It offered neurosurgical specialist services to troops, but also treated civilians.

We also looked at the structure of the Health Service in Scotland...

Diagram of the National Health Service in Scotland, from a booklet posted to every Scottish household (GD1/112, 1948)
and some of the innovations of its early days, such as locally-transforming campaigns for mobile x-ray screening for tuberculosis and health visiting:

Badge given to each participant in Edinburgh's 1958 mass miniature radiography campaign, screening against tuberculosis on the move.

Health visiting, organised by local authorities in the new National Health Service structure, helped promote the good general health that was seen as essential to the success of a nationalised health service (Acc16/009, 1960s)


As we looked at the different themes represented in the exhibition, some of the attendees' favourite items were the recent donations that we've received from the Edinburgh Children's Hospital Charity. In 2016, Writer in Residence Linda Cracknell and Illustrator in Residence Cate James produced a series of books designed for child patients in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children. With titles like Cathy the Friendly Cannula and Edward the Nervous Medical Notes, the books are designed to make the hospital experience less intimidating for children, by helping them to understand how treatment works, pictured below:




It was a pleasure to spend an afternoon looking back at the past 70 years, and how LHSA material both marks unique local breakthroughs, and fits into narratives of healthcare in Scotland and the UK as a whole. But if you couldn’t make it to meet us yesterday, there’s plenty of time to visit Dawn of a New Era before 15th August!



Me with one of our slides!