In today’s Midweek Retro A to Z of jobs we celebrate those unsung heroes of the NHS: hospital workers.
Not doctors and nurses this time but all those people who perform 1,001 roles, often behind the scenes, that help our hospitals to run smoothly.
They range from other members of the clinical teams to lab workers, pharmacists, cleaners, hygiene control and laundry staff, porters, catering staff, records teams and office staff, maintenance workers...
They are the army of people who work alongside the frontline staff to keep all of our public health services going.
Our hospitals would very quickly grind to a halt without them.
As we have seen in Retro features before, the hospital services now run by the NHS had their origins in the 19th century, when it first began to be recognised that healthcare must be made more widely available.
By the time of the Beveridge Report that led to the founding of the welfare state and the start of the NHS in 1948, it was acknowledged that healthcare was a right, not a privilege open only to those who could afford it.
The Victorian hospitals were run as charities, which meant that services were provided on the basis that someone thought they were a good idea, rather than a strategic view of what was needed.
They also limited access to their services.
For example, Doncaster Gate Hospital in Rotherham ruled in 1868 that it would only admit certain people.
If a person earning £1 per week had an accident through which he lost his wages then he would be admitted.
However if when not at work the person still received £1 then he would not be allowed to become a patient.
The hospital’s heritage project said this decision became Rule 65 of the Hospitals Rules which stated that “No person who is able to pay for medical expenses shall be admitted to the benefits of this charity, except in cases of severe accidents, or for capital operations.”
For the poor and elderly, the only care they could hope for at the end of their lives was in the dreaded workhouses.
In the post-war world the idea that anyone should have to rely on charity for treatment in a country that millions had fought for was seen as outmoded and ridiculous.
Actually, the First World War had shown the benefits of central organisation of treatment as unprecedented numbers of casualties were brought home to military hospitals that were set up to cope with them.
It led to major breakthroughs in many areas including plastic surgery and prosthetics as well as disease control.
A centralised health service could allow medical research to flourish, with huge benefits for the whole population.
Health services could move from simply treating illness and injury to developing strategies for preventative care as well, another key role for non-frontline staff.