Celebrating NHS 75 | Press releases

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Celebrating NHS 75

As we celebrate 75 years of the NHS, our Chief Executive, David Bradley, looks back on our own history and his thoughts for the future. 

1948 saw the birth of King Charles III, the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush, the end of post-war bread rationing and, of course, the inception of our National Health Service.

When I consider the NHS today, I am proud to see it has continued to uphold its founding principles: to be free at the point of delivery and offer care based on clinical need, not the ability to pay. 

In other ways, much has changed. Take our trust, South London and Maudsley, for example. Today, we provide the widest range of NHS mental health services in the UK. Our 6,000 staff serve a local population of 1.3 million people and we offer more than 260 services including inpatient wards, outpatient and community services across Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and Croydon. As well as serving the communities of south London, we provide more than 20 specialist services for children and adults across the UK including perinatal services, eating disorders, psychosis and autism.

Early days of the South London and Maudsley

Mental health care in south London was not always delivered in this way. In 1948, the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospitals came together as a joint hospital to enter the NHS. This united the legendary Bethlem, the oldest psychiatric hospital in Britain, and possibly the world, with the Maudsley, one of the most advanced and forward-thinking psychiatric hospitals in the country. The Maudsley placed itself at the cutting edge of psychiatry through its onsite training school, which after the Second World War became the Institute of Psychiatry (now the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN)). In 1999, the two hospitals joined with other mental health services in south London to form the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Research at the heart of progress in the NHS. It feels very abstract to consider what mental health care will look like over the next 75 years. But when we think back to 1948, it’s clear that time will pass quickly. In 2098, I hope south Londoners will recognise many similarities in our mental health services alongside important progress in the delivery of treatment.   

Research, in particular, is an important driver of change at South London and Maudsley. Research will enable us to develop the things we know and unlock the things we don’t yet know, so we can deliver outstanding care for all. We are doing this work through transformative programmes like the King’s Maudsley Partnership for Children and Young People. The partnership is a unique collaboration between leading academics at the IoPPN at King’s College London and specialist clinicians at our own trust, supported by the Maudsley Charity and leading philanthropists. Together, we host the largest group of mental health scientists and clinical academics in Europe, who are working together to advance mental health care for our south London communities and beyond.

Exploring new models of mental health care in south London

The purpose of our research is of course to find innovative ways of supporting good mental health for our communities. Another area of focus for our Trust in the future is looking at how we deliver mental health care across south London. We’re exploring what these different models of care look like, with a particular interest in providing more early intervention care and treatment for people in the community.

Early intervention can decrease the risk of developing a more serious mental health problem, by providing support for people experiencing early signs of a problem, and improve well-being and quality of life. Likewise, home treatment is a way of helping people at home rather than in hospital. This can help to avoid the stress, anxiety and upheaval that can happen with a hospital admission. 

Some people will always benefit from staying with us, and we are taking great steps in ensuring this is as therapeutic as possible. Our new Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People, which is due to open in 2024, was designed with input from our young service users. Our architects, IBI hosted workshops with young people and their families to understand their feelings towards clinical environments and what they wanted their hospital stays to feel like. The young people said they wanted spaces that felt welcoming, bright and open, with a strong presence of nature. Their request is why the building incorporates natural light and landscaped outdoor terraces with lots of plants, trees and flowers. The Young People’s Art Group, a panel of young people with lived experience of mental health conditions, has also commissioned artists to create meaningful work for the building, which will be part of the recovery journey for future residents.  

Over the next 75 years, we will strive to provide outstanding care which gives each and every person individualised treatment to support their mental wellbeing.

The next 75 years of the NHS

This week as we celebrate NHS 75, we have all been reflecting on the future of healthcare in this country. For me, the strength of the NHS has always been its people. The NHS now employs one in 25 working age adults in England. When I see colleagues working every day to deliver care to people when they need it most, I am confident that in another 75 years there will be even more for the NHS to celebrate.

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