How the Valleys Inspired a World of Free Healthcare

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‘Aneurin Bevan visiting a patient in hospital’

Lasting peace is not just about preventing war but also about creating a fair and just world. WCIA volunteer Sophie Champion tells us how one community worked together to improve access to healthcare for all…

We all know the National Health Service very well, and most of us have received free healthcare under the service. But how many of us know where the idea came from, or the community that was the test-run for the idea? It was in fact a mining town in Wales that spurred Aneurin Bevan on to form a health service that the whole of the United Kingdom could use.

The NHS takes its roots from the Tredegar Medical Aid Society, which was formed following a merging of a number of societies in Tredegar, a mining town in the South Wales valleys. Many of these societies offered services such as funeralcare and medical benefits, and brought the community together through a sense of collective responsibility.

The success of the society led to Aneurin Bevan’s case for a National Health Service, which would go on to help the lives of millions of people living in the United Kingdom.

Beginnings

Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid and Sick Relief Fund

The end of the 19th century in Tredegar saw a system of organised labour which provided basic health care through a network of societies, trade unions, and insurance companies.

In 1890, a variety of local societies merged together, forming the Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid and Sick Relief Fund. Some of the services included medical and funeral expenses offered to its 3,000 members. This allowed the society to continue to grow, eventually into a hospital in 1904, which was known as Cottage Hospital, in Tredegar town.

The land was donated by Lord Tredegar and the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company and various other philanthropists, while the running costs were financed by the workers themselves, through half-penny a week contributions, which increased to a penny a week by 1909.

Tredegar Medical Aid Society

The success of the society continued to grow, and the hospital began offering healthcare to non-members, such as the wives and children of members, the elderly, and workers in other trades in the town such as railwaymen, teachers, shopkeepers and more. Miners and steelworkers paid a weekly fee of 2d in each £ of their wages while ‘town subscribers’ paid 18s a year. The society’s offices were based at 10 The Circle in Tredegar town, a building that still stands today.

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‘The original sign of the Tredegar Medical Society. Photo by Sophie Champion’

Notable People

Aneurin Bevan

· Whilst Bevan did not found the Tredegar Medical Aid Society, he joined the Cottage Hospital Management Committee around 1928 and became chairman in 1929–30.

· Bevan holds great importance in the Tredegar Medical Aid Society and the history of the National Health Service in general, as he brought the ideas he saw practiced within the Tredegar Medical Aid Society to the British Government, confident that a healthcare system on a national scale was possible.

When the National Health System was launched, Bevan declared:

‘All I am doing is extending to the entire population the benefits we had in Tredegar for a generation or more. We are going to Tredegar-ise you’.

Walter Conway

· Conway was born into poverty and orphaned at a young age.

· He began working in a workhouse and became friends with Aneurin Bevan, both of whom later joined the Query Club in 1920.

· He was appointed secretary of the Tredegar Medical Aid Society in 1915.

· Conway was more than just a friend to Bevan, he was a mentor and teacher to him and assisted Bevan in ridding himself of a disabling stammer.

· This allowed Bevan the confidence to go on to deliver inspiring, passionate speeches, that would persuade members of the British government to implement a free health care system.

Conway’s memory lives on in both Tredegar and on a wider scale. A street in Cefn Golau is named after him: Walter Conway Avenue, and the character Owen in the novel The Citadel, written by a former doctor at the Tredegar Medical Aid Society, A.J. Cronin, is named after him.

Lord Tredegar

· Lord Tredegar was a keen philanthropist in the area, and donated land that would be used to build the Cottage Hospital, ran by the Tredegar Medical Aid Society.

Without the generosity of individuals such as Lord Tredegar, or the commitment of members such as Walter Conway, who demonstrated community values, the Tredegar Medical Aid Society might never have been as successful, or efficient, as it was.

The community as a whole

· Although individuals such as Bevan and Conway are commonly associated with the success of the society, it is also important to note the contributions made by members of the community.

· The local people would meet at the society’s offices at 10 The Circle, developing ideas and strategies to improve the society.

The involvement of the local people in the society’s development and running helps demonstrate the community values that the Tredegar Medical Aid Society demonstrated, and the important role the community were given in the management of their society.

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‘The original safe which stored the membership payments paid by those who used the Tredegar Medical Aid Society’. Photo by Sophie Champion.

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‘The money would be used to maintain the society, such as for paying doctors’ and nurses’ salaries, and buying equipment’. Photo by Sophie Champion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notable buildings

The Tredegar Medical Aid Society was based at two buildings: the Cottage Hospital and 10 The Circle:

· The Cottage Hospital was situated in the heart of Tredegar town, and the land to build it was donated by local businessman Lord Tredegar. The hospital provided healthcare to the town’s population, and employed a number of healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses.

· 10 The Circle was home to the society’s executive offices, wherein the secretary, Walter Conway, would work, and much of the decisions about how the society was

ran were taken here. Members of the executive would gather in the meeting rooms, discussing the running of the society, and local people would attend meetings, sharing opinions and advice on how to run the service efficiently.

How Did the War influence the Formation of the NHS?

During the aftermath of the Second World War British people sought a better future, for both them and their children, and aimed to achieve this by working collectively. There was also an aim of securing better lives for the working class, and a free health care service that discriminated against no one was instrumental in achieving this.

The Benefits of Working Together

The Dalai Lama once stated that, “when we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighboring communities,” and this quote can be held true to the success of the Tredegar Medical Aid Society.

Before its creation, residents of Tredegar were forced to fund their own health care, to look after only themselves. Whenever an individual was unable to pay for their healthcare, they would find themselves on their own, perhaps they did not have enough money, or enough friends, to pay for their medical costs.

This could leave the individual marginalised, disadvantaged, and alone. Their physical health could worsen, and this could impact their mental health too.

Moreover, those able to cover their healthcare costs might adopt a mindset where they could separate themselves from their community, caring only for themselves. This sense of individualism could diminish the whole idea of ‘community’ and the values that come with it.

But an organisation like the Tredegar Medical Aid Society instilled the town of Tredegar with community values and the responsibility for people to look out for one another.

With a system that requires members to pay in each week and year to cover the whole of their medical costs and support the upkeep of the society, this encouraged the people of Tredegar to unite and work together to support each other’s health and wellbeing.

This unity was then introduced on a wider scale, as in accordance with the Dalai Lama’s quote, wherein the present day millions of British citizens pay into a health system that the whole population can use for free.

In his books, including In Place of Fear, Bevan made a number of allusions to the peace and harmony a universal healthcare service would bring to communities and society as a whole.

“Society becomes more wholesome, more serene, and spiritually healthier, if it knows that its citizens have at the back of their consciousness the knowledge that not only themselves, but all their fellows, have access, when ill, to the best that medical skill can provide. Society will be peaceful and happier if we support each other.”

Aneurin Bevan, In Place of Fear, Chapter 5

References

● Aneurin Bevan, In Place of Fear

● Information and access to items pictured provided by Geoff Thomas, from Time Banking Wales, based at 10 The Circle, Tredegar ● Wales Online: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/health/going-tredegar-ise-you-bevan-told-2187499

● Tredegar.co.uk: https://www.tredegar.co.uk/history/#Tredegar Cottage Hospital

● Do One Thing.org: http://www.doonething.org/quotes/community-quotes.htm

 

 

 

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Climate Change: Humanity’s ticking time bomb

By Mushfik Khan

Climate change. I’m sure that most people reading this have heard those words before, but are we as aware or concerned of the causes and impacts of climate change as we should be?  I mean… when was the last time you saw it trending on Twitter?

Firstly, it is important to understand what ‘climate change’ actually means as a concept.

Earth’s climate has been changing for thousands of years and has remained relatively stable whilst doing so- as can be seen from the graph below. Therefore, it is of no surprise that it will continue to change. The thing which concerns scientists around the world is the rapid rate at which the earth’s climate has been changing in recent years.

Climate Change graph

For centuries, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere did not surpass the mark labelled with an arrow on the graph. However since the Industrial Revolution, human activity through the burning of fossil fuels has been increasing the level of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at an  unstable rate.

Studies by NASA have shown that the increasing amounts of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere are ramping up the natural greenhouse effect, causing more heat to become trapped and therefore raising the planet’s surface temperature. It is stated that the average temperature of the Earth’s surface has increased by about 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, this may not seem significant but if it continues to increase any further, it will have devastating consequences for all life forms on earth.

We are already witnessing the impacts of climate change around the globe. In recent days the southern states of the USA have been hit with 3 category 5 hurricanes which have become more destructive as a result of climate change. Furthermore, large parts of East Africa are suffering extreme droughts, many areas around the world have experienced record breaking heatwaves and extremes in precipitation patterns.

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Those are only a few of the effects of climate change. It is clear to see that we can no longer ignore the realness of climate change, it is time for nations to come together and figure out solutions and ways to prevent the impacts of climate change from growing worse. This was what the ‘Paris Climate Agreement’ aimed to do, to bring all of the world’s nations into a single agreement to tackle climate change and one of the key elements of the agreement was to keep global temperatures well below 2.0 degrees Celsius. However, despite the agreement being dubbed as ‘historic’, the President of the United States has refused to partake in the agreement, he has already voiced his controversial opinions on Twitter, claiming that climate change does not exist and that it is all a hoax. Without the United States as party to the agreement there is no chance of it succeeding. As the world’s wealthiest nation, it’s funds are vital to support developing nations to leap straight from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy and to set an example to other nations about the seriousness of the issue.

Despite the international stage looking murky on the topic of climate change, I can safely say from the research I have done that Wales as a nation has certainly been trying.

So far, the Welsh Government has passed two acts which both recognise the central importance of climate change. The first one is the ‘Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015’. This act requires public bodies across Wales to think in a more long term and sustainable way by setting seven ‘well-being goals’ which the public bodies must take into consideration when making decisions. Furthermore, ‘The Environment (Wales) Act 2016’ emphasises sustainable management of natural resources and requires public authorities to maintain and enhance biodiversity, it also puts an obligation on welsh ministers to meet targets for greenhouse gas emissions from Wales by calling for a reduction of at least 80% of emissions by 2050.

Clearly there is a lot more work that needs to be done globally regarding climate change but time is running out and we as the future generation need to try our best to do as much as we can to ensure that the planet that we call home now is not an apocalyptic scene in the future.

For more information on what you can do to save our planet, check out the links below:

https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/

https://www.wwf.org.uk/

 

 

Key issues for the UN Climate Change Conference 2017

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The UN Climate Change Conference takes place on 6-17th November in Bonn, Germany and will be presided over by the Government of Fiji.

The location of the conference, the Fiji Islands, are among a number of nations around the world that are at risk of flooding as a result of higher sea levels, due to climate change. But what are the some of the issues that will be discussed at COP23 Fiji?

Flooding of low-lying islands

A rise in global temperatures results in the melting of glaciers, which contribute to sea level rise. This means low lying islands around the world are at high risk of flooding, with many inhabitants of these islands being required to migrate to higher ground, for good.

One report, written by the Environmental Research Letters journal studied the impacts of sea level rise on the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The report found that:

‘at least eleven islands across the northern Solomon Islands have either totally disappeared over recent decades or are currently experiencing severe erosion.’

This has a profound impact on the welfare of local inhabitants. According to an IPCC report, the risk of flooding has brought ‘social problems of economic insecurity, inadequate water supplies, and lower health standards.’ As a result, local inhabitants have had to relocate either to higher ground, or leave the islands completely. The impacts of forced migration are wide ranging: it can cause psychological stress and trauma, cause the separation of families, and can result in migrants losing their traditional culture in favour of adopting their host country’s culture. This can leave them feeling marginalised and alone.

The inequality of climate change

According to a study by Oxfam, findings indicate that “the poorest half of the global population is responsible for only 10 percent of total global emissions while nearly 50 percent can be attributed to the wealthiest 10 percent.”

This inequality is mostly out of a difference in lifestyles: the wealthier a person gets, the more the quality of their lifestyles improve. Moreover, the presence of large scale industrial centres in richer countries enhances their part in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

It is important that the UN COP23 address the rising inequalities of climate change, which can have generational impacts.

The United States’ Position on Climate Change

Following the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the United States’ position on climate change has changed, with many questioning the nation’s commitment to fighting the issue.

This issue was further intensified following the US’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which sets targets for nations to lower their carbon dioxide emissions. As the United States is the second biggest global contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, the issue of addressing its role in fighting climate change is imperative.

In the journal Nature, Thomas Stocker, former co-chair of climate science for the IPCC, stated that “Trump’s decision to ignore scientific facts of climate disruption and the high risks of climate-change impacts is irresponsible not only towards his own people but to all people and life on this planet.”

Overall, as climate change continues to bring varying impacts to regions all around the world, it is hoped that this year’s Climate Change Conference will shed light on some of the issues faced, and allow the space for different countries to devise strategies on how best to respond to them.

Volunteer Voices: Anna Ratkai

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I am a student at Cardiff University and I was on a summer placement with the WCIA for 5 weeks. Throughout my placement I picked up multiple valuable skills, met numerous interesting people, and got involved in the organizing of a very fascinating project.

The atmosphere of the office was warm and welcoming, and the team was genuinely very keen on getting to know about me and about my interests. They also gave me ideas about where to volunteer and intern next to reach my future career goals. I found that I could easily make friends here, as all the other volunteers shared my interests and ambitions to help the ones in need, and learn more about international affairs. So altogether, the mood couldn’t have been any better.  But what did I actually do?

First, I started to work on a ‘Hidden History’ project. A Hidden History can be any topic that is not a mainstream object of history and is related to Wales and International Affairs. A Hidden History project can develop your research skills whilst it can also give you interviewing, writing, recording, or even video editing experience.

Later on I also had the chance to contribute to the blog of the WCIA by writing a post on a topic that is close to my heart – biodiversity loss. While writing this blog I learnt a lot about how Wales is contributing to biodiversity protection, and I discovered many volunteering opportunities for myself for the future if I were to engage in nature conservation activities.

The most interesting part however of my placement was being a part of the team that organizes the WCIA’s Human Library Festival. Organising such an important event gave me communication, time-management and coordination skills, while also giving me the opportunity to work alongside with refugees and get to know more about them as individuals and about their stories. I value this experience and I really hope the event will be a great success!

If you are interested in International Affairs, would like to gain valuable skills and get to know people who work in this field, the WCIA is the perfect place to volunteer and intern at!

You can find more information about volunteering with the WCIA here

Transforming our World: The 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda

Mark Bulmer, 2015 © Some rights reserved. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://bit.ly/20s863K

Mark Bulmer, 2015 © Some rights reserved. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://bit.ly/20s863K

Melanie Hawthorne, WCIA Volunteer

The United Nations Sustainable Development summit in New York on 25 -27 September 2015, agreed to 17 goals and 169 targets that build upon and develop from the eight Millennium Goals (MDG).  Broader in scope, the 15 year strategy of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) will include all 180 nations (both wealthy and poor) and not just focus on the developing nations as previously targeted by the MDG’s.

On November 4-6th, the DCF Uganda High-level Symposium will provide a first opportunity for a range of stakeholders to discuss development cooperation of the 2030 SD Agenda and explore ways to motivate, support and further shape cooperation as a critical means of implementation.

Initially, attention will be placed on what this means in terms of challenges and opportunities for development cooperation in Africa and the Symposium will focus on two overarching questions:

  1. How will the UN adapt development cooperation policies and interventions for implementing the SDGs?
  2. How will the UN monitor and review the impact of development cooperation in advancing the new sustainable development agenda.

The Symposium aims to bring to the table key issues related to ownership of the new global agenda, and will produce concrete evidence based policy guidance to be able to put into practice at international, regional, national and local level as part of the broader global partnership for sustainable development.

The report will be prepared in preparation for the 2016 meeting of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), the UN platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and will be the first HLPF after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The Forum is expected to start effectively delivering on its mandates to provide political leadership, guidance and recommendations on the Sustainable Development Agenda’s implementation and will meet from Monday, 11 July, to Wednesday, 20 July 2016, under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

*In order to informally contribute to the reflection, Major Groups and other Stakeholders were invited to provide their views and comments by completing an online questionnaire by 15 November 2015. Responses received will be made available on the website.

The Wales We Want

blog2As nations across the globe get to grips on how they will implement their own bottom up v’s top down policies through the framework guidelines, development cooperation is viewed as the main pillar of the global partnership for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Wales has a high profile in sustainable development and is recognised as being one of the first nations to take sustainable development seriously.

The Sustainable Development Charter managed by Cynnal Cymru/Sustain Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government encourages private, public and third sector organisations in Wales to become more resilient by using the principles of sustainable development – of improving decision making based on the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. Over 340 organisations have signed up on a voluntary basis and as more continue to do so as sustainable development continues to climb the agenda.

In April 2015, The Welsh Government passed into law The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act  that aims to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales, and strengthen governance arrangements within public bodies to ensure that present needs are met without compromising the ability of future generations.

The legislation will place a statutory duty upon public bodies in Wales to adopt sustainable development as the central organising principle upon which all other organisational decisions are made and provide evidence on how this is implemented in practice.

The legislation identifies 7 key goals to improve the well-being of Wales:

  1. A Prosperous Wales
  2. A Resilient Wales
  3. A Healthier Wales
  4. A More equal Wales
  5. A Wales of Cohesive communities
  6. A Wales of Vibrant Culture and Thriving Welsh language
  7. A Globally responsible Wales

Delivered through Public Service Boards (PSB’s) and local wellbeing plans for all local authorities in order to improve wellbeing for people and their communities, Public bodies in Wales were asked to respond to the detailed draft guidance that aims to enable government bodies and agencies in responding to and complying with the statutory duties they are under as a result of the Act.   All public bodies are scheduled to commence statutory reporting on wellbeing indicators as from April 2017

These public Bodies include: Welsh Ministers, Local Authorities, Local Health Boards, Public Health Wales NHS Trust, Velindre NHS Trust, National Parks Authorities, Fire and Rescue Authorities, National Resources Wales, Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCW), Arts Council of Wales (ACW), Sports Council of Wales (SCW), National Library and the National Museum and Galleries Wales (NMGW).

The consultation documents closes for submission on the 16th November 2015

Alongside the Consultation the proposed national indicators,  How do you measure a nation’s progress? will measure and capture wellbeing statistics in Wales and the deadline for consultation is the 19th January 2016.

Picture Hope in the Thorns (2007), Dan Foy © Some rights reserved. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://bit.ly/1WuB834

Climate Change – as viewed from Malaysia

Aaditya Rajaseharan

A flood-stricken family in Kota Tinggi.

Malaysia is a small but compact country located in South East Asia. It is divided into two parts: Peninsular Malaysia, the more urbanised region of the country, which includes the world famous Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Petronas Twin Towers and Sepang Formula One Circuit; and Eastern Malaysia which not only includes Sabah and Sarawak, two of the largest states in Malaysia, but also those that are populated by native Malaysians like the Kadazandusun, Kelabit and Ibanese people, who still practice their traditional beliefs today. Major cities like Kuching and Kota Kinabalu have very much become the soul of Eastern Malaysia.

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Is the U.S. drug war calling a ceasefire with marijuana?

Iwan Benneyworth

A cannabis store in Denver

The drugs debate in the UK has been somewhat stirred recently, with a Channel 4 documentary examining what cannabis does to the (Jon Snow) brain. This came in tandem with Nick Clegg announcing a Lib Dem election pledge to move drugs policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health, emphasising the public health rather than exclusively criminal nature of the issue.

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