NHSCymru 70

the NHS has affected the lives of people in Wales

The NHS turns 70 on 5 July 2018

It’s the perfect opportunity to:

  • celebrate the achievements of one of the nation’s most loved institutions, look at the wide array of opportunities created by advances in science, technology and information
  • thank the extraordinary NHS Wales staff – everyday heroes who are always there to greet, advise and care for us.

The NHS could not survive without the skill, dedication and compassion of its staff. It is also reliant on the work of the many volunteers, charities and communities that support it.

July 5 1948 – The NHS is born

When Aneurin Bevan launched the NHS at Park Hospital in Manchester it was the climax of a hugely ambitious plan to bring good healthcare to all.

For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one organisation to provide services that are free for all.

“No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”
Aneurin Bevan

An average day in the life of NHS Wales

  • 95 babies are born
  • 46,000 (minimum) people see a GP
  • 9,500 courses of dental treatment are completed
  • 220,000 prescription items are prescribed by GPs
  • Over 400 eye health examinations
    undertaken each day in 343 optometry practices across Wales
  • Over 24 low vision examinations
    undertaken each day in 210
    optometry practises across Wales
  • 12,000 outpatient attendances
  • 2,200 people are discharged from
  • 10,000 x-rays are carried out
  • 1,200 emergency 999 calls are received.

How vaccination has changed the lives of the people of Wales

Infectious diseases have been a threat to people’s survival, health and well-being since human life began. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the death rate from infectious diseases was nearly 400 people per 100,000 population. By the time the NHS was established in 1948, rates had started to decline due to improvements in sanitation, housing, diet and lifestyle but still infectious disease remained the main threat to human health 70 years ago.

Measles, polio, smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, mumps…..all diseases that caused illness, possible long-term disability and significant mortality, especially in children in 1948. Thanks to the childhood immunisation programmes introduced by the NHS from the 1950s onwards, rates of these declined, with smallpox eradicated completely. Rates of polio were at about 8000 notifications a year for England and Wales in 1950. After the introduction of the polio vaccine in 1956, the number of cases fell to very low levels. The last case of natural polio infection acquired in the UK was in 1984.

Vaccinations have continued to develop. The meningitis C vaccine, introduced to the childhood immunization schedule in 1999, has reduced the number of confirmed cases of meningitis C infection in Wales. Vaccinations for influenza and invasive pneumococcal disease which can cause pneumonia are also offered to the elderly and other vulnerable people such as those with long term chronic conditions.

However, high levels of uptake of these routine vaccinations are required in the general population to stop the infectious diseases they protect against from circulating again. The number of cases of measles, a disease responsible for the deaths of a 100 children a year in England and Wales before the introduction of vaccination in 1968, is on the increase again after its spread had been effectively halted by the mid 1990s. The rise in the cases of measles may be attributable to the lower uptake of the MMR vaccine in recent years (in the wake of negative publicity surrounding unfounded claims of a link between MMR and autism). More encouragingly recent data collected in Wales show that uptake of the MMR is increasing again.


Wales has a rich heritage of clinical research. Without research there wouldn’t be treatments like IVF or devices such as pacemakers – and we certainly wouldn’t know that smoking causes cancer.

Over the last 70 years of the NHS, research has given us things that we might take for granted today but they all started out as ideas, and through diligent testing we now have solid evidence that they work – or in some cases cause us harm.

Health and Care Research Wales

Health and Care Research Wales has been established to conduct future research to improve our health and care for the next 70 years. It now funds HealthWise Wales which is the largest research study of its kind ever in Wales.

Launched in 2015, it’s collecting the information to better prevent and treat long-term health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and dementia. It aims to involve everyone over the age of 16 in Wales in improving the health and well-being of the population through simple, 10 minute online questionnaires every six months.

Professor Shantini Paranjothy, scientific lead of HealthWise Wales, said: “HealthWise Wales is a great opportunity to take part in something that will contribute to the health of the nation, where your information will be used to answer those important questions the NHS needs answers to, in order to plan their service for the future. The information gathered also allows scientists to develop better and targeted treatments.”

The study aims to build an in depth picture of the health of the nation, giving the data for the evidence-based medicine of the future.

3D printing

As medical technology continues to develop improvements are being seen in many medical areas. Advancements in care and treatment are being used across the NHS.

A surgical team at Morriston Hospital have become world leaders in using 3D printing to reconstruct jaws affected by cancer. They have pioneered a technique combining traditional bone grafts with 3D printed titanium implants that are anatomically accurate for individual patients.

Surgeons rebuilt a section of a patients jawbone after they had developed a tumour. The patient was in hospital for just two weeks after her operation in August last year, which also used 3D technology to plan the operation in advance. She was able to return to work after three months.

On another occasion the team using 3D printing technology helped rebuild part of a man's chest during an operation to remove a large tumour. The prosthesis was inserted into his chest after he had three ribs and half his breastbone removed.

The tumour had grown to around the size of a tennis ball, and the procedure left an extensive defect in the 71-year-old's chest. It is believed to be one of the first times such an implant has been printed in the UK.

The titanium implant was designed at Morriston and printed in Wales.

Aneira Thomas - First baby born in the NHS

"We are the envy of the world and it must be protected and preserved at all costs...we must never lose it".
Aneira Thomas

Aneira Thomas was born a minute past midnight, on 5 July 1948 at the Amman Valley Cottage Hospital in Carmarthenshire.

The staff at the hospital convinced her mother to call her Aneira (the female version of Aneurin) after the founder of the NHS, Aneurin Bevan.

Her association with the NHS didn't end there as she worked for 28 years as a mental health nurse. In fact, many members of her immediate family have worked or are working in the NHS including her daughter and her three sisters.

She has every reason to thank the NHS as it has saved her life on eight occasions. She suffers with anaphylaxis triggered by an allergy to painkillers. On doctor's advice she now carries an EpiPen in case she suffers any attacks in the future.

She is a great advocate of the NHS and cannot praise it enough. Aneira believes that people should not take it for granted and should be better educated about how much it costs to run.

She feels passionately about the preservation of this fantastic service, which provides support from the 'cradle to the grave' for every person in the United Kingdom. It means equality for all.

As Aneurin Bevan said: “The National Health Service will last as long as there’s folk left to fight for it.”
Aneurin Bevan

Mike Peters - The Alarm

"I'm very grateful to everyone who works in the NHS because they really do give life to people like myself."
Mike Peters

Mike Peters is the lead singer of the internationally acclaimed Welsh rock band, The Alarm.

Co-founder of the world’s leading rock and roll cancer foundation. The Love Hope Strength Foundation provides innovative, music related, outreach and awareness programmes for leukemia and cancer sufferers, survivors and their families.

In October 2007, Mike Peters, along with 38 other musicians, cancer survivors and supporters, made a 14-day trek to the Mount Everest base camp. This was to perform the highest concert ever on land to raise awareness and money to fight cancer.

Mike and his wife Jules, who have first hand experience of the difficulties of a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment use the funds raised to provide medical equipment, raise awareness and to recruit potential donors to the organ and bone marrow registers all over the world.

Professor John Williams

“I have found working in the NHS very stimulating and when I’ve needed the NHS I’ve been very happy with the care I’ve received”.
John Williams

John Williams is a professor of health services research at Swansea university medical school. He is also a consultant gastroenterologist but has since retired from his clinical practice at Neath / Port Talbot hospital.

He began his career in 1970 as a medical officer in the Royal Navy. During his 20 year service he conducted many clinical trials. His time with the navy developed his passion and expertise in research.

His involvement with research continued when he started working in the NHS. He has found that the technology then wasn’t as efficient as it is now. He did say that research is much better regulated now and all good research should employ good clinical practice. This is the framework that sets out all the aspects to conduct research properly. When asked ‘what does the NHS mean to him' he replied that he

“Loved the NHS and enjoyed looking after patients and much of his research has been focused on improving patient outcomes.”

Professor Jean White

"Nursing at its heart is still the most wonderful of professions and we're here for people."
Jean White

She began her career as a state registered nurse at Singleton hospital 39 years ago. After qualifying she worked as a theatre nurse. After working in London for a time she returned to Singleton and noticed that their procedures were a little ahead of their time. They were using sealed instrument packs as opposed to sterilising the instruments in autoclaves.

“My first experience of working in Swansea was at the leading edge of change about how practices and theatres were going at that time”.

She states that nursing now has changed beyond all recognition from when she first started. Nowadays it’s more evidence based, and nurses take a more proactive role in the care of their patients.

She added that what hasn’t changed is that patients still need nurses to be caring, kind and compassionate.

Dennis Moss - Paramedic

“This job is one of the greatest jobs you can have though. It’s given me a better understanding of the community and the people we serve and a way of dealing with people’s needs, illnesses and traumas”.
Dennis Moss

On October 21st 1966 he was one of hundreds of helpers in trying to find survivors of the Aberfan disaster. Although a traumatic experience it influenced his decision to want a career where he could help people so he joined the ambulance service.

Apart from one other visit to the site for an anniversary ceremony he has never been back as he still finds it upsetting.

He’s worked for over 41 years for the Welsh Ambulance Service as a paramedic but now works as their Inclusion Ambassador. He still enjoys the work and has seen many changes from when he first started.

Dennis is also well-known for his charity work. While visiting India with the Asian Fire Service Association in 2015 he helped to install drinking water pumps in many villages. He also taught crucial first aid after hearing about the death of a 15-year-old who had choked on food.


Since 1999 Wales has introduced a number of initiatives to improve the health of the people of Wales. Some of these have been adopted by some of the other UK countries.

Free prescriptions

We introduced free prescriptions for everyone in Wales in 2007, ensuring people get the medication they need and reducing hospital admissions.

Smoking ban

Wales was the first country in the UK to ban smoking in public places.

We are protecting the health of children through our ban on smoking in cars carrying under-18s.

Organ donation

Wales was the first UK country to introduce a soft opt-out system of organ donation. Latest figures show the highest ever number of donors in Wales.

Nursing staffing levels

We are the first and only country in Europe to pass a law to protect the levels of nurses working within the NHS.


  • We are leading the way on treatment for Lymphoedema, and are the first home nation to offer pioneering treatment on the NHS.
  • We are leading the way on end of life care, and were the first home nation to make specialist palliative care advice available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Since we introduced our diabetic retinopathy screening programme in 2003, the incidence of diabetes-related sight loss has halved.
  • More people are surviving a stroke in Wales thanks to improved access to high quality, urgent care.

Train Work Live

A major campaign to promote Wales as an excellent place for doctors (including GPs) and nurses, and their families, to train, work and live in Wales.

This national and international campaign compliments the work already being undertaken by health boards to recruit staff. Since the launch of the campaign training places have been overfilled for the first time.

Thanksgiving service

A multi-faith Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate 70 years of the National Health Service in Wales was held at Llandaff Cathedral on 4 July. It was attended by HRH, the Prince of Wales who was greeted by current and past NHS staff from across Wales.

A fanfare of trumpets and a peal of bells heralded the special service where Prince Charles joined staff, patients, fund-raisers and volunteers for a Service of Thanksgiving.

Others attending the event included the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, the Dean of Llandaff The Very Reverend Gerwyn Capon and Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health & Social Services.

The majority of the congregation were frontline NHS staff representing both the rich diversity of people and the wide range of skills and professions across the health service.

Among the performers were:

  • Tenovus sing with us choir
  • Trumpeters of The Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh
  • Royal harpist Anne Denholm
  • Soloist Mike Peters who is best known as the lead singer with The Alarm.

There were readings of specially commissioned poems by former Wales’ national poet Gillian Clarke and Welsh language children’s poet laureate Casia Wiliam. They were joined by the Llandaff Cathedral Choir and the Llandaff Cathedral Guild of Ringers.

At the end of the ceremony Prince Charles presented special NHS coins from the Royal Mint to primary school children from across Wales who were winners in the NHS70 drawing competition.