NHS at 70: Stories from Wales

In June we partnered with the Bevan Commission to film NHS stories in Wales to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS and the 10th anniversary of the Bevan Commission. Stephanie, Project Director, and James, Project Officer for Wales, spent two wonderful days conducting interviews with support from staff at the Bevan Commission and Swansea University


From early memories of health care and pre-NHS experiences to the challenges of community care now, the stories shared illustrate the unique place of the NHS in everyday life. Each story is different yet together they highlight shared experiences.

Shirley James and Beryl Rowley share their early memories of being children in hospital at a time when visiting was limited, even for their parents.  Shirley’s father was a miner and the family’s health needs were covered pre-NHS through an employer’s subscription scheme. It was similar to the model of healthcare - the Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid Society - which inspired Bevan in the creation of the NHS.

Mary Jones and Eira Jenkins talk about maternity services in the early 1940s. At that time, births often took place in the home rather than the hospital. Mary was born in the front room of her home near Pontypool and she still has a receipt for £2 7s 6d which was the cost of a midwife attending the birth and visiting her mother for five days after her birth. It was more than the wages her father earned for a week’s work. Eira remembers her sister in law having to pay £5 to have her baby in hospital.

Rhian Matthews discusses public expectations of the health service and how they have changed over the last 70 years, suggesting that people need to still take some personal responsibility in the use of NHS services in order to maintain the basis on which it was created.

Andree Kane-Akers, a lecturer in Child Health trained as a nurse in the 1970s. For her a nursing career meant a chance of independence after leaving school. She recalls how at Cardiff Royal Infirmary each Christmas the tradition was that the consultant would come in and carve the turkey for everyone!

See extracts from their interviews below. The full interviews will be uploaded to our digital archive soon. Find out more out the Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid Society here in an interview with Phlip Prosser.

Shirley James and Beryl Rowley

Mary Jones and Eira Jenkins
Rhian Matthews
Andree Kane-Akers

To find out more about the Bevan Commission and the work that they do click here