Free health advice ‘from the cradle to the grave’

Princess Diana is pictured visiting All Saints Hospital in Eastbourne in the 1980s SUS-180207-095928001
Princess Diana is pictured visiting All Saints Hospital in Eastbourne in the 1980s SUS-180207-095928001

This week (Thursday July 5) marks the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service and the milestone will celebrate its achievements, pay tribute to the NHS staff and volunteers who help shape the service and look to a future vision of the NHS.

In 1948, for the first time, prevention, diagnosis and treatment were brought together under one umbrella organisation to create one of the most comprehensive health services in the world: the National Health Service.

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In Eastbourne, the town’s hospital management committee managed eight hospitals with 733 beds.

They were Downside, Gildredge, The Leaf, Princess Alice and St Mary’s hospitals, Maternity Home, Seaside Convalescent Hospital in Seaford and the Merlynn Convalescent Home. Further afield there was Hellingly Hospital.

There were two separate clinics in Avenue House for VD and TB.

All Saints Hospital was taken over by the NHS in 1959.

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In 1976 Eastbourne District General Hospital opened for patients. It was officially opened in 1977 by Her Royal Highness the Princess Alexandra.

In 1989 phase two of Eastbourne District General opened leading to the closure of St Mary’s

In the years before the NHS, people had to pay to see the doctor and to stay in hospital.

Hospitals were mainly funded from charitable and voluntary donations and most were in debt. Patients with infectious diseases formed an important part of the doctors’ work.

Diphtheria was a deadly disease, killing 3,000 children a year, although the two other main killers were tuberculosis and heart disease followed by rheumatic fever.

Health officials say it is easy to forget the standards we now take for granted, were once novel.

There were regular epidemics of measles, whooping cough and polio) and hospital wards were full of people suffering from the complications of these diseases.

With the introduction of the NHS, hospital consultants were, for the first time, paid a salary for their hospital work, and GPs no longer had to tout for patients in order to make a living.

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In 1948, a cataract operation meant a week of total immobility with the patient’s head supported by sandbags. Eye surgery is now over within 20 minutes, and most patients are out of hospital after a couple of hours In 1958, hip replacements were so unusual that the surgeon who invented them asked patients to agree to return them post-mortem.

The NHS now carries out thoussands of these replacements every week. In East Sussex some hip replacement patients are walking four hours after surgery and home within 24 hours of surgery.

The breast-screening programme introduced in 1988 now saves the lives of 1,300 women a year

Before the NHS, one in 20 children died before the age of 12, now death is most unusual and commonly due to accidents. In March 2017, the NHS employed 106,430 doctors, 285,893 nurses and health visitors, 21,597 midwives, 132,673 scientific, therapeutic and technical staff across England’s hospital and community healthcare services.

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