#NHS70: The NHS in the Swinging 60’s!

Our wonderful NHS service is 70 this year and with the ongoing celebration in mind, we thought that today’s blog would focus on the NHS in the 1960’s! But really, how much has our National Health Service changed over the years and how did those early years form the NHS service we are so privalged to have today?

The New Age Of Medicine

Before the 1960’s, transplants were few and far between, even unheard of by many people! 1960 was the year that marked the very first kidney transplant on the NHS at the Edinburgh Infirmary for a set of twins. The procedure was a success and marked the birth of something that would go on to save thousands of lives, with 3079 people receiving kidney transplants in the last year!

The 1960’s also saw the very first hip replacement take place by Professor John Charnely, however, what is even more interesting is that Professor Charnley would ask patients if they would mind giving back their hip replacements post-mortem! As most patients agreed, his team would collect the replacement hips for future use after the death of all patients who agreed! Somehow, we don’t think this would be done today!


Changes for Women

The 1960’s saw a lot of progress on female-specific issues too! In 1961, the contraceptive pill was made widely available to married women. Although it wasn’t until 1967 that these laws would be relaxed, the launch of the pill played a major role in widespread women’s liberation and contributed directly to the new found freedom for women across the UK!

1961 wasn’t the only important year for women! In 1967, the Abortion Act was passed which meant that abortion was legal up to 28 weeks, although this was lowered to 24 weeks in 1990. Abortions could only be carried out by a registered physician and also if TWO separate doctors agreed that abortion was the best thing for the mental and physical wellbeing of the patient.

One of the most moving and important advancements of the 60’s was the first birth of sextuplets via fertility treatment in 1968! Shelia Thorns gave birth, with the help of 28 NHS staff, to six babies in Birmingham Maternity Hospital. What is even more amazing is that Mrs Thorns had been treated with fertility treatment which led to the conception of her children, a move that would see many women helped with fertility issues in the future.

Mental Health

Although mental health stigma and misunderstanding is still battled today in society, 1961 marked the start of the acceptance and treatment of mental health disorders. Enoch Powell, the Minister of Health at the time, gave his water tower speech which outlined his desire to see a greater provision of community care for those suffering from mental health issues across the UK. Today, it is considered as one of the biggest milestones in the revolution of the treatment of mental health disorders and caused a widespread change in societies views and opinions on those suffering from mental health issues.


Changes for NHS Staff 

1967 was an especially important year for NHS staff across the UK. The Salmon Report of 1967 set out recommendations for developing the nursing staff structure and the profession of hospital management. It was the start of the emergence of groups of speciality doctors and highlighted how the NHS could reduce the disadvantages of the three-part NHS structure. Finally, the complexity of the NHS was being acknowledged and a new structure and age of the NHS emerged from a once chaotic organisation.


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