The NHS: A People's History - A clear-eyed view of Britain's crowning glory

Alex Brooker with an old disability car, one of the features of The NHS: A People's History
Alex Brooker with an old disability car, one of the features of The NHS: A People's History
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In the 1950s and into the 60s, a dedicated GP called John MacBeth spent hours each night after work making his own charts, recording the rates of childhood disease in his patch.

Over the years, these meticulously coloured in charts revealed the number of children affected by disease falling, and falling and falling.

The reason for this health miracle?

The NHS.

A nationwide vaccination programme and free access to healthcare combined to make our children’s lives safer, longer and, yes, healthier.

This was one of many stories featured in The NHS: A People’s History (Mondays, BBC4, 9pm), a series telling the story of the 70 years of the NHS through the eyes of the people who worked in it and used it.

That was the key to this story – it used the tales of ordinary people, those like you and me, to highlight just what an achievement the NHS was, and remains.

What to watch this week

It was certainly not sugar-coated. It revealed how the founder of the NHS, Nye Bevan, “stuffed the mouths of doctors with gold” so they would get onboard. And just three years after the foundation of the NHS, charges were brought in for dentistry and optometry.

Most disturbingly, it revealed the malpractice of doctors and nurses, which ended in overmedicating patients, and in some cases murder.

Presented by Alex Brooker,coming across as a lot more articulate, intelligent and empathetic than he does on The Last Leg, this was as an affecting, emotional and heartfelt happy birthday to the NHS.

Most of all, it showed just how much good the NHS has done in 70 years, and gave an indication of how much we would miss it, if it goes.

Humans (Channel 4, Thursdays, 9pm) came to an end this week, in what was a good place to stop for good. A sci-fi show about robots, it had so much more to say about science, humanity and faith.

ITV’s crime drama Unforgotten starts on July 15. Assuming we are not all skyhigh with joy after a World Cup final, can I urge you to catch up with series 1 and 2 on ITV Hub, and then stay glued to the TV?