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Shropshire NHS memories star in birthday showcase

By Toby Neal | Health | Published:

Memories of the birth of the NHS 70 years ago have been recorded as part of celebrations at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

Staff pose for a formal photograph outside the Royal Salop Infirmary in Shrewsbury at around the outbreak of the First World War in 1914

From early starts of a student nurse to the demands of a busy switchboard, pioneering work carried out by surgeons to a doctor inspired by the work of her great uncle, the hospital has recorded the evolution of the NHS from its beginnings in 1948.

To mark the anniversary, staff at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital are holding a charity fun day next weekend and some of the finest acts on the Shropshire music scene are set to take to the stage.

Prince Charles with nurse Lynne Breakell at RSH opening in 1978

Bands and solo acts will be joined by choirs at the special event at the hospital on Saturday. Confirmed acts for the event, which is being hosted by the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) include Shropshire Rock Choir, Of One Accord and singers from musical theatre group Get Your Wigle On.

The #NHS70 fun day has been organised by SaTH to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS and to raise money for two of the Trust’s causes – the Living Well with Dementia appeal and the end of life care Swan Fund.

The event will feature a host of attractions including a Nerf gun arena, Army medics, bouncy castle, Crossbar Coaching, Little Rascals, Shrewsbury Town in the Community, along with Shrewsbury Town mascot Lenny the Lion, tours of the Lingen Davies Centre and food – all being staged in a variety of ‘through the ages’ zones.

The Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital in Shrewsbury in 1923

The fun day will also see the unveiling of a special sculpture which has been created by the British Ironwork Centre near Oswestry, who have also produced special blue butterfly ornaments which will be on sale on the day to raise money for the Dementia appeal, whose symbol is a blue butterfly.

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There will also be the first chance to buy raffle tickets for a very special teddy bear – named Bevan after NHS founder Aneurin Bevan – which has been created exclusively for SaTH by traditional teddy bear makers Merrythought to raise funds for the SaTH Charity.

Maternity ward from the 1940s

Prior to the opening of the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in 1979, those needing medical treatment were able to see doctors and surgeons in either Royal Salop Infirmary in St Mary’s Place, which opened in 1774, the Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital on Town Walls which opened in 1881, the Copthorne Hospital opposite the site of the modern day RSH and Cross Houses Hospital outside of the town, which had also been known as the Berrington Hospital and the County Council Hospital.

SaTH has been through its archives to pick out important moments in healthcare in Shropshire. It has also created a video in which it speaks to former staff.

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One of them, Doreen Powell, became one of the country’s first student nurses with the NHS. Spending three years training, she remembers it as being hard but rewarding work.

NHS 70: Meet one of the first NHS Student Nurses

Living in a nurses’ home where there was a strict lights-out policy at 10.30pm, she recalled how each student nurse was given two ounces of butter, two of sugar and two of tea which would have to see them through the week. They were paid just £8 a month.

“I used to be allowed to come home at weekends, so I would cycle 30 miles and it took three hours. It was hard work but I got so much satisfaction.” Doreen is amazed in the advances in technology but admits that ‘change is for the better’. “I would not like to be doing it now though,” she added.

Manning the switchboard was a full time job for Freda Donnelly – one she enjoyed so much that from her first day in 1948 she remained in post until 1995.

NHS 70: Find out what it was like working in the NHS in 1948

The hospital was run by one doctor and the matron and she remembers, ‘they decided everything’.

With two outside lines and 25 extensions, Freda was responsible for connecting everyone within the hospital.

“Shropshire was ahead of its time. I enjoyed my job, it was never boring,” she said.

NHS 70: Surgeon inspired by her Great Uncle, Sir Archibald McIndoe
NHS 70: Pioneering Surgeon David Evans
Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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