Medical History: The NHS through the decades


1968 – Sextuplets are delivered after fertility treatment

After a fertility treatment called gonadotrophin, Sheila Thorns gave birth to six babies by caesarean section. 28 medical staff attended the delivery at Birmingham Maternity Hospital, but unfortunately – despite the doctors’ best efforts – three of the babies did not survive.

1972 – CT scanners are introduced

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Created by British engineer Sir Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield, the computerised tomography (CT) scanner could produce three-dimensional images of internal organs like the brain, for example, with the use of two-dimensional X-rays.

1978 – World’s first baby born using IVF

A new technique developed by gynaecologist Dr Patrick Steptoe and physiologist Dr Robert Edwards resulted in the birth of Louise Brown, the first baby born by in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

1988 – Breast screening introduced

The NHS launched a project to tackle deaths caused by breast cancer across the nation. Women over the age of 50 were offered free mammograms, a process that uses X-rays to detect tissue abnormalities within the breast.

2002 – First gene therapy success

Image source: Getty Images

Gene therapy is a process whereby genes are used to treat conditions by replacing or introducing new genes to a patient. This method successfully treated 18-month-old Rhys Evans at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, who suffered from severe combined immunodeficiency disease at the time.

2007 – Rise of the robot surgeon

Doctors at St Mary’s Hospital, London, began working with a revolutionary robotic arm to perform cardiac operations. The da Vinci robot was used to deliver electric currents to specific parts of the heart without the need for traditional invasive and risky surgery.

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