Dr George Addis

Dr George Addis was a medical student on the day the NHS came into being and, like many people, was unsure exactly what the future would hold.

For patients, it was an unqualified success, providing them with access to treatment and services they had only dreamed of previously.

“We dreamed of an NHS where you would get all the medical attention you needed for free. The dream has come true. . . .”

However, for a young doctor trying to establish himself in his new profession, it proved to be something of a struggle. There were few jobs and limited opportunities in the early years of the NHS.

Dr Addis started work in the Belvidere fever hospital in Glasgow treating patients with tuberculosis. Other hospital jobs followed before he decided to try general practice, working in both city and country practices.

“It was very stressful working in a single handed practice where you were on call all of the time,” he recalled. He remembers the day he decided general practice was not for him. “I was standing in a close mouth in Springburn under a gas light at 2.30 in the morning. I had just been up to see this child who was screaming. There was nothing wrong with the wean; he was just crying but the parents wanted the doctor. I thought then – was this what I was going to be doing until I was 65?”

He moved back to hospital medicine, first at Stirling Royal Infirmary and then in Glasgow. He improved his prospects by passing fellowship exams for medical royal colleges before finally becoming a consultant general physician.

Dr Addis was a member of the team that set up the first coronary care unit in Glasgow and he helped to train the doctors of the future. “I used to tell them they worked in a happiness factory. It was their job to make people feel happier.”

It was also a time of economy when some emerging medical technologies were seen as being too expensive for introduction into the local NHS. “We felt we had a duty to keep the spending as low as possible,” said Dr Addis.

He appreciates the progress made by the NHS but feels that hospitals have become too busy. “People did not come and go so fast previously. There is much more chance for a patient to become a person, rather than a person with a problem when staff have more time.”

The 82-year-old has first hand experience of the modern NHS having undergone successful heart surgery last year which has given him a new lease of life. “I have had marvellous treatment. This time last year I thought I was dead and now my life is scarcely limited.” He can now swim every day and is fitter than he was four or five years ago – all thanks to the NHS.

Dr Addis added: “We dreamed of an NHS where you would get all the medical attention you needed for free. The dream has come true but, too often, we don’t recognise it.”

Dr George Addis