Bevan's Baby Comes of Age; Britain Got a Health Boost 65 Years Ago with the Birth of the NHS. Marion McMullen Checks out the Decades of Operations, Advances and Nursing Care Since

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'THIS is the biggest single experiment in social service that the world has ever seen undertaken," announced health minister Aneurin Bevan at the birth of the National Health Service 65 years ago.

The treatment started on July 5, 1948 when 1,545 municipal hospitals with 390,000 beds and 1,143 voluntary hospitals with 90,000 beds joined together to form the new NHS.

The official launch took place at Park Hospital in Manchester in a post-war Britain still dealing with food rationing.

Thirteen-year-old Sylvia Diggery (nee Beckingham) was the first NHS patient. She arrived at the hospital suffering from a liver complaint, but went on to make a full recovery.

Jean Murray of Wigan had the distinction of being Britain's first NHS baby and today the health service is one of the largest employers in the world - along with the Chinese People's Liberation Army, Wal-Mart supermarkets and the Indian railways.

It employs more than 1.7 million people, including 39,780 GPs, 370,327 nurses, 18,687 ambulance staff and 105,711 hospital and community health service medical and dental staff.

The post-war health service began in 1948 with 14 regional hospital boards, 36 boards of governors for teaching hospitals, 388 hospital management committees, 138 executive councils and 147 local health authorities.

All medicine was free in the beginning, but one shilling prescription charges were introduced by the Conservative government in 1952.

Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle paid tribute to the NHS and Great Ormond Street Hospital in the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics with skipping nurses and children in giant hospital beds.

More than 600 real-life nurses and other healthcare staff took part in the Olympics special.

The Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting director later said: "One of the reasons we put the NHS in the show is that everyone is aware of how important the NHS is to everybody in this country. We believe, as a nation, in universal healthcare. It doesn't matter how poor you are, how rich you are, you will get treated."

There have been a lot of firsts in the NHS. The first full hip replacement was carried out in 1962 by Professor Sir John Charnley at Wrightington Hospital in Wigan, Lancashire. He later asked patients if they could return their replacement hips after they died so he could study them and surprisingly 99 per cent of people agreed to do just that.

More than 89,000 hip replacement operations were carried out between 2006 and 2007 and the oldest patient to undergo the op was a 101-year-old woman at Good Hope Hospital in the West Midlands.

The first heart transplant in the UK was carried out on May 3 1968 in London and 5,328 heart transplants have since been carried out across the country up to 2007. …