Dawn of a New Era ‘Invalid fruit tart’ and ‘fish custard’:

Te Great NHS Menu revealed How hospitals, healthcare – and nutrition – have

changed since Nye Bevan’s Appointed Day


othian Health Services Archive (LHSA) is the archive of NHS Lothian, based in the Centre for Research Collections in the Main Library of the University of Edin-

burgh. LHSA looks after more than 3,000 shelves of archive material, dating from 1594 up to the present day. With collections documenting patient lives, hospital histories and staff stories through text, images and objects, we’re one of the largest medical archives in the UK. I’ve been NHS Lothian’s Archivist for

more than four years now, but the sheer size and variety of the collections that I look after means that I’m always coming across items that I’ve read about in our catalogues but have never seen ‘in the flesh’. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t learn something new about how people were cared for in Scotland. We’re always adding to our hold- ings: we take in material from NHS Lothian hospitals (mostly when important records are no longer in active use and need to be preserved permanently) and archives from the general public and non-NHS organisa- tions that reflect our local health history. Our current exhibition, Dawn of a New

Era, runs to 15 August this year, on the 6th floor of the Main Library, and celebrates the 70th anniversary of the NHS in Edinburgh and the Lothians. Looking back through pre-1948 experiments in state healthcare, celebrating NHS medical breakthroughs, marking public health campaigns and chart- ing growing patient power, Dawn of a New Era outlines how hospitals, healthcare and communities have changed in our region since Nye Bevan’s Appointed Day. Te regional nature of the exhibition we’ve

put together is important: 5 July 1948 did not create one monolithic NHS, but a service for England and Wales and another for Scotland, with a slightly different structure and a differ- ent chain of accountability. Scotland was also used to state responsibility for healthcare in a way that England, for example, was not, mak- ing the transition to the new service arguably a smoother one. Experiments in

The exhibition’s title reflects a graphic on the back page of the final annual report of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh’s League of Subscribers

The Royal Infirmary was a leading light in hospital nutrition, having founded the UK’s first Department of Dietetics in 1924

state healthcare in the Highlands and Islands Medical Service as far back as 1913 (when government directly funded medical staff to serve poor and remote areas) were a case in point. Furthermore, when the British Medi- cal Association (BMA) scuffled with Bevan over conditions of service in the new Health Service in the late 1940s, the final BMA ballot on proposals saw the majority of Scottish doctors, unlike their counterparts south of the border, vote for the new arrangements.

Te exhibition’s title reflects a graphic on the back page of the final annual report of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh’s League of Subscribers. Founded in 1729, the Royal Infirmary was the first voluntary hospital in Scotland, funded by charitable contri- butions from across Edinburgh’s social spectrum. Te League came into being in 1918 to raise and manage public donations – but with the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948, central funding for hospital care meant that its function was effectively redundant and the League was disbanded in March 1949. Te ‘Dawn of a New Era’ graphic on the final page of the report reflected hope for a brighter future (indeed, the graphic was a rising sun over an idyllic horizon) whist its surrounding text expressed gratitude for all that the generos- ity of Edinburgh’s public had built.

One display case

in the exhibition focuses on hospital food: the Royal Infirmary was a leading light in hospital nutrition, having founded the UK’s first Department of Dietetics in 1924. Te department formulated special diets to aid patient recovery and to benefit certain conditions. We have a bundle of small recipe sheets showing food that would have been cooked up by the department in the 1950s – from fish custard (essentially fish in white sauce with the fish taken out before serving!) to an ‘invalid fruit tart’: a kind of apple sponge pudding. Food seems to be something that has really caught the public imagination in this NHS anniversary year: so much so that part of a special series of Te Great British Menu was filmed at LHSA, due to air later this summer. Being part of celebrations like this, bringing hospital heritage into people’s living rooms, has been really exciting, and a chance to show how much we can learn from the lives, stories and achievements that make our NHS. n

Dr Louise Williams is the LHSA Archivist

You can learn more about LHSA through our website (, and we always welcome queries by email ( or telephone 0131 650 3392.

NHS70 | SUMMER 2018 | 7

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