Today is a special someone's 72nd birthday. The NHS? Yes them, but someone else too...
On this day, 72 years ago, at 12.01am, Nye Thomas was the very first baby ever to be born into the newly created, National Health Service. So Happy Birthday NHS and Happy Birthday Nye!
The observant among you may have noticed that Nye Thomas and Nye Health appear to share a name. That’s because both of us were named for the founder of the NHS, Aneurin Bevan, more commonly known as Nye.
Here at Nye, we thought we would celebrate both birthdays by having a little chat with Nye to find out about her life and the life of the NHS. So here’s what we found out when we spoke to the very first NHS baby - Aneira “Nye” Thomas:
What was life like before the NHS?
Before the NHS, individuals were expected to pay for all health services they received. This meant that it was primarily the wealthy who could access formal healthcare. Many others relied on family members and friends to care for them and only called on medical professionals when absolutely necessary. When we chatted to Nye, she recounted the story of her grandmother who died from stomach cancer at 42, leaving behind seven children and her grandfather who was operated on without pain relief, on the kitchen table.
After the second world war, some local authorities started providing some services to residents. In 1948 Aneurin Bevan, under the then Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, made this universal to all UK residents, from the cradle to the grave and paid for through taxes. This greatly improved access to healthcare for all - nice work Nye!!
What does the NHS mean to Nye?
Aside from being the very first baby to benefit from this new service, which meant that her parents did not have to pay for the medical care they received when she was born, the NHS has been a pretty big part of the rest of Nye’s life.
She comes from a family of nurses and midwives and when it came time for her to choose a profession, she, along with her sisters, trained as a nurse and worked in the NHS for her entire career. Her own children have even followed in her footsteps, with her daughter becoming a paramedic.
She told us though that, having been relatively healthy in her younger years, she hadn’t really appreciated the value of the NHS until she went on to have her own children, both of whom have had their lives saved by the tender loving care and incredible skill, of NHS staff.
How does Nye feel about the NHS response to Covid?
It’s fair to say that 2020 is shaping up to be one of the more exceptional of the NHS’s and Nye’s 72 years of life. Just like pretty much everyone else in Britain, Nye has been pretty impressed by the way NHS staff responded to the Coronavirus outbreak.
“In these distressing times, the NHS is only doing what they've always done - they’ve laid their lives on the line for us 24-hours a day and showed compassion, dedication and commitment.”
How can we find out more about the lives of Aneira and Aneurin and the NHS over the last 72 years?
Aneira has very helpfully written a book, all about it! It’s called “Hold on Edna!” as this is what the doctors present at her birth, were instructing her Mother, Edna Thomas, to do. At 11.59 on the 4th July she was ready to give birth and was sure she couldn’t wait any longer. Luckily, Edna did manage to hold on for just 1 minute more and welcomed her baby into the world at 1-minute past midnight, making her the very first NHS baby.
When she asked the staff for any suggestions for a name for this special baby, her doctor suggested she name it after the man who made it all possible - Nye Bevan. So she was named Aneira Thomas but Nye tells us that to her mother she was always “Nye - my National Health Service Baby”
You can also watch the full interview here: