AGENDA: From Nightingale Nurse to High Tech of Today; Medical and Technological Innovations over the Past 60 Years Have Led to Major Advances in Health Care since the NHS Was Created. Health Correspondent Emma Brady Asked Staff and Volunteers What Changes Have Had the Biggest Impact

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Byline: Emma Brady

Shaunagh Wand was a nurse at St Thomas's Hospital in London between 1950 and 1960.

She is now a League of Friends volunteer at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Edgbaston.

"I was a Nightingale nurse when I qualified in 1950. The NHS was seen as a marvellous innovation and our training was superb, but tough.

We would be apprentices for a year, spending most of our time on the wards, fetching bed pans, washing patients and working under keen supervision of a ward sister or matron.

They would come round and run their fingers over everything doing regular dust checks.

Back then the patients were 'gods' so everything had to be done perfectly for them. Everybody appreciated that but I think the NHS has moved on from that belief now.

When I first started I was on a ward where they had started doing heart operations, and lots of them died, but the advances in medicine since then have been tremendous, and as a result people are getting more effective treatment and living longer.

As far as nursing goes, I think it's good that nurses are getting university qualifications, but they're becoming more academic than practical, there's been a definite shift away from what we called 'bedside nursing'.

Patients were in bed longer than they are today, and I'm sure nurses still do a good job, but all this MRSA and C.diff must mean something's gone wrong. I think it's the ward supervision that's lacking.

I think free visiting was a great mistake.

When I was nursing you could only have two visitors at a time, during restricted hours, and they couldn't touch the bed, let alone sit on it.

I think this is how many of these infections arrived on our wards.

My husband, Soloman Wand, was a GP in Balsall Heath and the practice where he worked has been named after him.

Before the NHS came into being he was helping patients to pay for treatment and he would see patients out of hours, and did surgeries on Saturday nights. He wouldn't leave until he'd seen his last patient which could be as late as 9pm.

I agree you can't work around the clock but I do feel the 'family doctor' no longer exists, in that you can go to a practice and see a doctor, but it could be a different one each time.

They don't know you, your children or family history, and I think that's very important, so the advent of polyclinics may improve access but won't do anything to improve the doctorpatient relationship."

Join the National Elf Service

Chris Ellis, director of clinical services for Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Good Hope, Heartlands and Solihull hospitals. He began his career as a junior doctor at the Middlesex Hospital, in London, in 1971.

"Before I even qualified as a house physician and started work at the Middlesex, my first memory of the NHS was from a pantomime I went to when I was about seven years old.

There was a joke about the 'National Elf Service' which got a good response, not jeers or boos, so six years since its creation there was already great public affection for it.

I'm always amazed what was achieved 60 years ago, because we were only just figuring out how to use antibiotics and surgery techniques were very primitive compared to the procedures that are regarded as routine today.

Consultants more or less ran the show at the Middlesex. There were 'lay managers' but they tended to remain in the background dealing with the business side of running a hospital, they weren't really involved in front-line patient care.

But now managers and MPs are getting more involved in care issues, and the deference to the medical profession - that "doctor knows best" - has gone. I do think the pendulum has swung too far in that way.

Incidents such as the Harold Shipman inquiry and the Alder Hay scandal are entirely exceptional, but politicians have been quick to seize on them as examples of what can happen if the NHS is left to run itself. …