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Innovation in health and social care: social and historical
Innovation in health and social care: social and historical

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4 A history of innovation in the NHS

Innovation can be incremental, that is to say it builds on existing ideas or practice, or it can be revolutionary and ground-breaking, but ultimately its widespread use has led to millions of lives being saved (Gerry and Wyatt, 2011). The next activity invites you to explore a timeline of innovation within the NHS in the United Kingdom and to identify key changes that led to the improvements in the healthcare of the nation.

Activity 3 A journey of innovation through time

Watch the following video about innovations in health care.

Please note: this video dates from 2009 and, due to its age, has noticeably poorer picture quality than videos uploaded today.

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Video 2 A history of health innovation
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Next, use the drag and drop activity underneath to match seven innovations with the year of their discoveries.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Carbolic acid used to sterilise surgical equipment

  2. Almoth Wright invents anti-typhoid vaccine

  3. NHS formed by Aneurin Bevan to provide free medical treatment for all the population

  4. Franklin, Watson and Crick discover DNA is a double helix

  5. Umbilical cord blood is harnessed to repair damage caused by chemotherapy

  6. The Sanger Centre produces the human genome

  7. Imperial College grows a heart valve from stem cells

  • a.1989

  • b.1867

  • c.2007

  • d.1948

  • e.2000

  • f.1953

  • g.1896

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = b
  • 2 = g
  • 3 = d
  • 4 = f
  • 5 = a
  • 6 = e
  • 7 = c

Finally, in the text box that follows, identify five ways in which the UK population’s health has improved.

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Was there anything that surprised you in the video? You may have been slightly alarmed that hip operations were once considered so rare that the artificial hips had to be returned after a patient’s death. This may have caused some distress to families given that a deceased relative would have had to be operated on to remove the replacement. Now of course though, hip replacements are common.

So far, this section has focused on pioneering discovery in healthcare. In the next section, attention is given to change and innovation and whether it is always a good thing.