The Queen opening Newham General Hospital

History of the NHS in Newham

History of the NHS

Launched in 1948 as part of the transformative post war Labour Government, Aneurin Bevan, the then Health Secretary sought to bring together the hospitals, doctors (fundamentally the GPs), pharmacists opticians and dentists into one umbrella healthcare organisation. The original announcement, detailed below, invited patients to sign up to their chosen doctor. The important role of the GP  in setting the framework for all patients to access health services was established. 

On 5 July the new National Health Service starts.
Anyone can use it - men, women and children. There are no age limits, no fees to pay. You can use any part of it, or all of it, as you wish. Your right to use the National Health Service does not depend upon any weekly payments (the National Insurance contributions are mainly for cash benefits such as pensions, unemployment and sick pay).
Hospital & Specialist Services		Your Family Doctor		Dental Services
Maternity Services				Medicines, drugs and appliances	Eye Service
The first thing is to link up with a doctor. When you have done this, your doctor can put you in touch with all other parts of the Scheme as you need them. Your relations with him will be as now, personal and confidential. The big difference is that the doctor will not charge you fees. He will be paid out of public funds to which all contribute as taxpayers.

So choose your doctor now. If one doctor cannot accept you, ask another, or ask to be put in touch with one by the new ‘Executive Council’ which has been set up in your area (you can get its address from the Post Office).
If you are already on a doctor’s list under the old National Health Insurance Scheme, and do not want to change your doctor, you need do nothing. Your name will stay on his list under the new Scheme.

But make arrangements for your family now. Get an application form E.C.1 for each member of the family either from the doctor you choose, or from any Post Office, Executive Council Office or Public Library, complete them and give them to the doctor.

There is a lot of work to be done to get the Service ready. If you make your arrangements in good time, you will be helping both yourself and your doctor.
Source: The Birth of the NHS 1948 – The National Archives

Sadly, the understanding of General practice is significantly less today than it was in 1948.  Today Primary Care is often seen as the gatekeeper rather than the primary deliverer of services. As all our General Practice staff know the significant value of primary care to the health service is their ability to help the many thousands of patients who come through their doors each day without recourse to other services. To diagnose and treat without an onward referral.  To support patients with their health and community challenges without any other part of the system. 

All too often primary care are only seen as the sift to the other more expensive services – rather than recognising them for what they are – the high volume, wholistic healthcare teams who support complex and often confused patients and their families.  

The landmark approach when the NHS was established – to provide all services finance entirely from taxation with the central principal that each would pay according to their means and receive according to their needs has stood the test of time and today when our communities are stretched by a cost of living crisis the support for this approach is still at record levels.

An ongoing study by the Health Foundation shows that the Health Service is something British people are more proud of than our history, culture, democracy or even the Royal family and that pride is largely related to the NHS model of free at the point of use.

A graph showing Pride in the NHS is largely due to it providing free, affordable healthcare

The History of Newham General Hospital

Hospital provision in Newham has a long and reputable history. Two hospitals, Queen Mary’s Hospital for the East End and East Ham Memorial Hospital provided health care across the district for many years.

Queen Mary’s Hospital for the East End, the oldest voluntary hospital in West Ham, was established in 1861 and East Ham Memorial Hospital was founded as a Cottage Hospital in 1902. During World War Two, the hospitals suffered from intense German bombing -with Queen Mary’s being the first London hospital to be bombed.

Both Queen Mary’s and East Ham hospitals joined the newly established National Health Service on 5th July 1948.

Following a major reorganisation of the NHS in 1974, a new hospital, Newham General, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 14th December 1983. Later, a  maternity department, a special care baby unit, a rehabilitation department and an academic research centre were opened by Diana, Princess of Wales on 18th February 1986. A woman’s centre and an ambulatory care centre were added in 2000. From 2002, Bedrock Radio provided a community health radio for East London and surrounding areas.

In 2004, the hospital’s name was changed to Newham University Hospital. The Gateway Surgical Centre, with 39 beds, a renal unit and three operating centres, opened in 2005. In 2012, the accident and emergency department was reconfigured and improved.

Retired Community Nurse Emeline speaks about being at Newham General Hospital Opening

Our communications officer Steph, met with Emeline, a retired community nurse who was at the opening of Newham General Hospital and was selected to be part of the Queen’s guard of honour. She supplied some photos (see below) and also spoke to us on camera. Scroll down to hear what she had to say!

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