Online Exhibitions/Resources

A photographic exhibition by Lothian Health Services Archive to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the National Health Service.

The National Health Service (NHS) was launched on 5th July 1948. It heralded a new era of health care for the UK. The main provision was for every man, woman and child to have access to a complete health service, regardless of who they were or where they came from. Medical care and treatment was to be free to all individuals, funded by central taxation.

The NHS brought together a number of existing services which had begun many years before. It provided a uniform national structure that had previously involved voluntary, provident, private and government provision at the hospital and community levels. The main features were: regional hospital boards to co-ordinate hospital services; local health authorities to run community-based services and executive councils to administer GP, dental, chemist and eye services. The complete service offered by the NHS aimed to encompass all aspects of health care from the cradle to the grave. It also promoted good health and welfare in general.

Before the NHS, citizens had to pay for medical advice and treatment. Many simply could not afford this. So calling out a doctor, or going to a hospital, often became a last resort, with the result that illnesses or injuries often went untreated altogether, or became more serious than they might have been. The NHS meant that people of all classes no longer had to worry about how they would pay. Care and treatment became a right, not a privilege.

The first part of the exhibition focuses on aspects of pre-1948 health care and selected features of the NHS Scotland Act. The second part provides photographic snapshots of the many components of the service provided by the NHS in Edinburgh.

The NHS has adapted and developed continuously since 1948. Almost immediately it became apparent that the need for health care in Scotland (and the UK) was enormous and that the cost of meeting it was going to be far higher than previously estimated.

Many people today are quick to associate the NHS with waiting lists, prescription charges and so-called ‘postcode lotteries’. But we should never forget that the fundamental values behind the NHS still remain the same. Anyone who is sick or injured can go to a hospital or a doctor’s surgery and get the help that they need. This was not the case 60 years ago in Scotland and is unfortunately not so in many countries of the world today.

Dawn of a New Era Leith Day Nursery

View exhibition - Dawn of a New Era

We'd be delighted to receive feedback on this exhibition, if you'd like to get in touch, please email or ring us on 0131 650 3392.

Please note that copyright on this exhibition is held by Lothian Health Services Archive, and that permission should be sought from the Archivist for any use or reproduction of images.