Hoxton Mini Press has released a new photo book titled the National Health Service, which celebrates the creation and history of Britain’s NHS.
Published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the institution and as part of Hoxton Mini Press’ Vintage Britain series, the book explores the early years of the NHS, starting with its founding in 1948.
Surprisingly, many were opposed to the idea of a national health service at the time. The black and white photographs, all shot in the 20th century, trace its progress from this tricky beginning through to many more trials and tribulations over the following years.
However, the photographs show that alongside the hardship there are also touching moments of care, connection and intimacy, as everyday people seek treatments that would have previously been out of their financial grasp.
The book is a reminder that the help we now expect from our local GP was once a luxury, not a given. Prior to the NHS, only those in employment and with a decent income could afford to see a doctor.
It also illustrates the invaluable contributions to the system made by many doctors, nurses, cleaners, porters and other members of staff over the years, including the critical role of the 30,000 nurses that came from across the Commonwealth and the Caribbean to support the NHS shortly after it was established.
The NHS is thankfully still around, though it’s not without its issues. As we continue to address them and seek improvements to the system, the photographs highlight the hundreds of thousands of people who have dedicated large chunks of their lives to it in the meantime.
In the book’s introduction, Lucy Davies writes that Aneurin Bevan, who spearheaded the creation of the service, “always envisaged the NHS as a work in progress, unfolding and evolving into a long future he would not live to see. If parts of it are malfunctioning – and they certainly are – and parts of it require urgent treatment, it is at least still here, still fighting for your life.”
The National Health Service is published by Hoxton Mini Press; hoxtonminipress.com