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May 2024 Talk

“Health, Humanity & Humour” - NHS health care then and now; - Reality, Covid and the Future; Challenges for the NHS consultant. -Alistair Smith


Alastair is the husband of retired local GP Dr Sally Smith and he took us through the staggering  improvements in health care since the 1950s & 60s. UK male life expectancy has risen from 68.9 in 1950 to  81.5 years in 2020! In the sphere of vaccination programmes  smallpox, polio, and diphtheria have been mostly eliminated. However the re-emergence  of measles and whooping cough in 2024 is warning us that infectious diseases haven’t gone away, and there is no room for complacency.


Other clinical milestones are; first kidney transplant 1956; introduction of oral antibiotics, such as Amoxycillin, in the 60s and early 70s; early UK modern total hip replacements 1962; CT scanning 1971; MRI scanning from early 1980’s. Social factors remain challenges for the NHS including dealing with the effects of poverty, smoking and vaping, drugs, failure of education, and poor housing.

Alistair was a haematologist specialising in Bone Marrow Cancers. He told us how cancer treatments in particular had progressed enormously since the 1960s. It was considered pretty much incurable but as time, treatments and skills have developed many cancer are now curable or provide the patient with much longer life expectancies.

Alastair gave us a considered view on how the structure of the NHS tends to be reliant on procedures rather than outcomes and how politics were impacting on the organisation, and how the Covid crisis has shone a spotlight on many of its weaknesses.


So where does the humour come in you may ask? As with many stressful careers it plays a big part in supporting staff morale and performance, and we heard a few tales! 

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