Our ambulance service before the NHS

One of the men on this St John Ambulance photo is Jack Cain.
One of the men on this St John Ambulance photo is Jack Cain.

Having had contact with the NHS and the ambulance service recently, it maddens me how critical and impatient some people who use them are.

Neither is perfect, I know, and when they go wrong, the consequences can be dire.

Sadly, fewer and fewer people are left, who can remember pre-NHS days when, if you couldn’t afford medical care, you went without; and there are none at all, now, who recall when emergency treatment in an accident was not a given.

This is an interesting photograph from Kevin Blair, taken outside the headquarters of the Jarrow Division of the St John Ambulance Brigade.

There is no date for it. What do you think? The 1930s perhaps? St John Ambulance grew out of the provision of medical care in the battlefield.

Today its members are a reassuring sight at most large public gatherings.

Casting around in its early days in this area, it’s interesting to see how much work was done in providing first aid training in industrial settings, with the provision of ambulance classes.

In the second half of the 19th century, for instance, the Mines Regulation Act compelled colliery owners to have an ambulance system at all their pits; and in Jarrow, a big supporter of ambulance training for its workforce was Palmer’s shipyard.

Hopefully, someone may recognise one or two faces here.