NHS History Blog

London smog and a major advance in public health

From 5 to 8 December 1952 smog (fog filled with smoke) of unusual density and persistence covered the Greater London area.

Castles in the air

On 20 October 1975, in the middle of an economic crisis, a white paper, Better Services for the Mentally Ill, was published by Barbara Castle.

'Tylenol became a classic example of healthcare crisis management'

12-year-old Mary Kellerman of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, woke up at dawn and went into her parents’ bedroom. She complained of having a sore throat and a runny nose. Her parents gave her one extra-strength Tylenol capsule.

'The report had a world-wide effect on public health'

On 10th September 1973, Marc Lalonde, the Canadian minister of national health and welfare, addressed the PanAmerican Health Organization conference in Ottawa.

'A mysterious outbreak led to three nurses becoming infected'

On 27 August 1977, the BMJ published an editorial on an outbreak of a severe haemorrhagic infectious disease.

'The massive death rate from pneumonia forced government action'

The massive death rate from chest disease and pneumonia were among the factors that forced the government to pass the Clean Air Act in 1956.

'The BMJ saw dangers in a state medical service'

The 5th of July is the most important date in the history of the NHS.

'The hospice movement was prepared to look death squarely in the face'

On 24th July 1967 Princess Alexandra came to St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham to perform the official opening ceremony.

'The evidence of rape and the distress of the patient were clear'

On 14th June 1938 Aleck Bourne (1886 - 1974), a prominent gynaecologist, was arrested after performing a termination of pregnancy, without fee, at St Mary’s Hospital Paddington.

'The estimated cost of the future National Health Service was £21 million'

On 24th April 1944, before Victory in Europe, Mr Neville, of the Ministry of Health, signed on behalf of a committee of the great and the good a document outlining the demobilisation of the emergency hospital service.

'From our viewpoint the NHS looks like a nervous colony of ants'

When the white paper on the reorganisation of the NHS in England appeared, the Lancet commented that it was ‘welcome and wise’.

'This was the beginning of care in the community'

On 9th March 1961 Enoch Powell, the Minister of Health, addressed the annual conference of the National Association of Mental Health.

'Forty three people died from head injuries and traumatic asphyxia'

On 28th February 1975, at 8.46 in the morning, a tube train failed to stop at Moorgate station and ploughed on into a brick wall, compacting the first three coaches into a tangle of metal.

'The BMJ said it was demeaning for doctors to appear on the stage'

On 11 February 1958, the BBC first televised Your Life in Their Hands, presented by Charles Fletcher from the Royal College of Physicians.

'No other nation has had the chance to refashion its hospitals so comprehensively'

The Hospital Plan will determine for many years to come the broad lines of development of the hospital service.

'Spending on the health service was to rise to the European average'

On 16th January 2000 Tony Blair was interviewed by Sir David Frost. In what was described as the most expensive breakfast in British history, the PM announced that spending on the health service in the UK would rise, over five years, to the European average.

'Adams was convicted for prescription fraud'

John Bodkin Adams was responsible for a new concept in medical management - “doing a Bodkin”.

'Clark received the first total replacement of an artificial heart'

On 1 December 1982, a snowy night in Salt Lake City, Utah, Dr Barney Clark’s heart was giving out and he was moved up the operating list to receive the first total replacement of an artificial heart in an emergency all night operation.

'The formation of the RCGP followed letters in the medical press'

On 19 November 1952 the College of General Practitioners was established quietly at a meeting at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.

'A raft of scandals surfaced in hospitals for the elderly'

On 24 November 1965 Lord Strabogli wrote to The Times. Public concern about the treatment of the elderly in hospitals had been growing, though apparently the government saw no problems.