The Aneurin Bevan inheritance The story of the Nevill Hall and District NHS Trust By Gareth Jones Old Bakehouse Publications Tregraig Press 240 pages £20

Local history is, of course, fascinating for local historians. Similarly, local medical history may have a wider appeal to medical historians than others - but when coupled with the story of the greatest social welfare reform of all time it should have a wider import.

Gareth Jones - born and brought up in the coal mining community of Blaina in the south Wales valleys - travelled the world, returned to Wales and in 1994 assumed the chair of the Nevill Hall and District trust. He then sought answers to the question, 'How did we come to be what we are today?'

The book gives the most absorbing, detailed and comprehensive local historian's answer, with all local characters affectionately and painstakingly recalled.

Generously illustrated with contemporary photographs and documents, the reader easily understands the social and ethical pressures as the Tredegar Workman's Medical Aid Society established and developed communal health care in the years before the HS.Subsequent progress to the modern-day trust based in Nevill Hall Hospital is equally vividly brought to life.

The flavour of the times - not just medical - shouts from every paragraph and contrasts with today.

The retirement of Matron Thomas after 33 years in post - no short-term contracts here; nursing recruitment (an exhibition in 1947 to interest young people included a performance by the nurses of Tredegar Hospital of the play The Lamp Still Burns) ...such living history cannot fail to appeal to anyone connected with healthcare in south-east Wales.

But what of the wider issues? Gareth Jones chronicles the advent of the steel and coal industry in the 19th century, which created towns and villages without safe water and sanitation.

The consequent epidemics of infectious diseases, coupled with the high incidence of industrial injuries, led genuinely concerned major local employers to help create Workmen Medical Aid Societies - the earliest in Tredegar.

These societies 'employed the doctors, and also provided the voluntary hospitals'.

Managed by hospital management committees, they were dependent on the local working population for funding - which was mostly derived from subscription and charity.

In 1929 councillor Aneurin Bevan MP became chair of such a hospital management committee in Tredegar.

The rest, as they say, is history, and the parallels between the fight of the industrial communities of south Wales against disease and injury and the creation of a comprehensive health service as reflected both in the community hospitals of the pre-war era and the Nevill Hall Trust of today, are most ably written.

We would all benefit from reading this book to re-discover in the NHS as a whole how 'we became to be what we are today', but I fear the predominance of the 'local history' format of the book may detract from its deeper lessons.

Bob Broughton

Welsh secretary, British Medical Association.