Hello, my name is Olive Belfield and I was a nurse at the start of the NHS in 1948. I always wanted to be a nurse. If anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I would always say I wanted to be a nurse.
I started nursing when I was 18 in 1945. You were then accepted for 12 weeks and lived in the nurses’ home. It was so exciting. I remember my uniform – it was pink. If we passed, that was it. We could carry on and become a nurse. Joy upon joy this happened. It was such a proud day for me.
The first hospital I worked in was Chester Royal Infirmary. I was on a male medical ward. The war was not long over and the country was being rebuilt. I remember how poor people were. I remember that before the NHS people would delay getting treatment if they were ill because of the cost. Children were often brought in when their illness had really taken hold. Often it was too late.
That stopped after the NHS was launched. People would come much earlier. There was no cost. We could give them the care they needed earlier and save them so much pain and anguish. We could save their lives.
Before the NHS money was extremely tight and equipment was limited. Sometimes, we would have to reuse bandages on different patients. This stopped after the NHS was launched.
I later became a health visitor. I’d always felt that if I nursed, that I would like to go out into the community.
Anuerin Bevan’s dream was to set up the NHS and I am proud to have served in it for 37 years from 1948 to 1985. And I am proud to be here today to speak to you.
I am honoured to have been a founder member of the South Manchester branch of the NHS Retirement Fellowship, as well as its chair for 17 years. I am still a member today.
In recent years, I have been poorly and have been a patient of the NHS. The care I have received has been excellent. The staff are so kind. No matter how busy they are, they are so kind.
Much has changed in the NHS over the last 70 years. But many things haven’t.
Most importantly, the founding principles remain the same. That good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth.
70 years ago today I was in working in Chester Royal Infirmary. Little did I know that 70 years later I would be here, in Westminster Abbey, celebrating the birth of this amazing institution. Thank you for inviting me. And thank you to all of the NHS staff. The NHS wouldn’t be what it is without you.