FILES stacked floor to ceiling marked the start of the NHS in Chichester.
One of the health service’s original workers has recalled its launch at it celebrates its 70th anniversary on July 5.
Valerie Gostling, nee Storey, says an immense amount of effort laid behind the creation of a state-funded health service. But the tale of administrative staff toiling away over typewriters and filing cards is always lost in the understandable attention on doctors and nurses.
She said: “The amount of work was unbelievable. The service had been running for just eight months when I started in the ophthalmic department.
“Everyone wanted teeth checked and glasses. The work came in each day and was stacked in an empty room, floor to ceiling. Each day, we took a bundle of work and sat and completed it. Cards were constructed and details of the glasses entered on them.
“At 9am every day, two of us pushed a large wicker basket to the general Post Office sorting office for our day’s post. The sorting office was in South Street then, just past the Iceland shop, which was the Odeon Cinema.
“We pulled it back to the office and its contents were sorted for each office.”
Valerie, 85, of Tozer Way, left school aged 15 and two weeks, and began work in the NHS’s West Sussex Executive Council in South Street.
Its role was to pay all the doctors, dentists and opticians in the county. Every one of the 500,000-plus residents had to be registered for them and to have their own index card.
“We hear a lot of the anniversary for the hospitals and wonderful nurses. At our office, it was making the medical cards and records, dealing with the general public – all the admin side of things and, of course, paying the money,” she said.
On her first day, she had to learn to make 40 teas and coffees and deliver them to everyone in the right cup in the right room each morning.
The office has become Cote Restaurant but then had Turnbull gents’ outfitters on the ground floor and the executive council on the first and second floors.
Mr Down was manager of the large office and later received the MBE for overseeing the huge job of coping with the change-over.
“We thought we had all earned the medal ourselves,” said Valerie. “We were 15 young people straight from school. We all got on so well and remained friends for many years.
Their working week was 38 hours, with occasional Saturday mornings, and they were paid £8 a month after stoppages.
She left the office in 1959 to start a family and returned between 1969 and 1984 and went into the registration department.
The offices had moved to Broyle Road for more space and, more than 30 years later, moved again to Worthing.
She went on to other roles around the city as well as being a city councillor for East ward and a school governor at Portfield School.
Meanwhile, Aldwick resident and author Beryl Kingston has been interviewed by the BBC as one of the first patients to benefit from the NHS in a programme due to be shown on July 4.
She became ill with streptococcus two weeks after the health service was founded and was treated at her then home in Tooting.
In her blog, she says she had shown the TV interviewer, Hugh Pym, her copy of the Beveridge Report which laid out the principles of the welfare state.
It is a concept of government which she says is still well worth defending seven decades later.
“We should nail the lie that the NHS is ‘free’ and that people who use it are idle scroungers who are ‘taking something for nothing’, The NHS has never been free.
“You pay in willingly so that the service is there for you and your family when you need it,” said Beryl.
Residents should always be reminded, as well, about the difference between public services run for the general good and private services which exist to make a profit.
Any deals between the government for private companies to take over part of the service should be publicised.
She said: “We need to know the names of all the people to whom they have sold these choice bits and for how much.”
This was needed to ensure the NHS could continue to fully service the country for decades to come.