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NHS Anniversary – History Short 14

5th July 2020 @ 6:06am – by Brenda Smethurst
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Audlem and District History Society Park Hospital, Manchester and the NHS

Park Hospital, Davyhulme in south west Manchester, is famous on two counts. It is generally regarded as being the first NHS hospital and, secondly, it is where I was born almost exactly one year later!

As the NHS is so much in the news at present (and rightly so), I thought the story of Park Hospital would be a topical addition to the 'History Shorts' series.

park hospital  oldtrafford

Although the hospital had opened in 1928, it came to fame on 5th July 1948, when it was visited by Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health in Attlee's Labour governement. He received the keys to the hospital from Lancashire County Council alongside a "guard of honour" of nurses, thereby formally launching the NHS. Park was chosen as it was the most modern hospital in Manchester at the time. Of course, in 1948 the NHS was unique, being the world's first universal health system provided by government. Bevan boasted that Britain had "the moral leadership of the world".

aneurin bevan

The first NHS patient, Sylvia Diggory, was just 13 at the time. Later she remembered that Nye Bevan had asked her if she understood the significance of the occasion. He told me it was "a milestone in history – the most civilised step any country had ever taken and a day I would remember for the rest of my life – and of course, he was right".

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