People's History of the NHS


Radiography and Preventing TB on the NHS

In the immediate postwar years, the Department of the Health and the newly-formed NHS were committed to combatting tuberculosis through the national screening of the population. The Mass Miniature Radiography (MMR) programme used mobile units, housed in vans, to carry x-ray equipment into communinites to encourage people to come forward for x-ray. A large fleet of these mobile vans in conjunction with a dedicated mass media health education campaign were the central elemetns of the programme. Using 100mm film and low doses of radiation the portable nature of the screening enabled a far greater reach for the campaign than would otherwise have been possible. The Units travelled to factories, schools, community halls and town centres in order to be easily accessible and therefore convenient for members of the public. The arrival of the Units in an area was promoted by locally-focused poster campaigning as well as through the machinations of the local press. X-ray screening produced quick results for detecting tubercuslosis and facilitated easy referrals if futher investigation was needed. These campaigns throughout the late 1940s and into the early 1960s did much to demonstrate the benefits of screening for the idenitification of individuals with tuberculosis who could then receive targeted treatment such as streptomycin. It set a precedence for the use of screening measures as an important way of providing preventive health services at population level and has been followed by the introduction of other screening services, such as those now provided for breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer.


For more information on mass miniature radiography in Scotland read this recent blog by Clair Millar at the Lothian Health Services Archive:

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5 thoughts on “Model of MMR Unit

  1. When I was a 4 year old child I was diagnosed as having a “shadow on my lung” which indicated I had tuberculosis. I had a very bad cough for some time before this happened.
    I had to leave my family and stay in a sanitorium hospital for about 9 months . I was treated with a course of Streptomycin and other medication which required many many injections. Every so often I was sedated and treated in an operating theatre which I remember as making me feel a bit strange.
    Much of my early education took place in Poole Hospital, near Middlesbrough.
    We also used to do crafts such as making jewellry.
    Seemed a long time to a 4 year old, 9 months. I do remember the nurses were so kind to me. Some of the big lads used to lock me and possibly other kids in the big wicker laundry baskets which was pretty scary but I remember the nurses coming to the rescue 🙂
    I eventually got well and went home but I had to leave all my toys at the hospital which was a bit sad.
    I have not had any further problems with TB since my stay in the hospital in 1959. Thank you NHS. Thank you to the kind nurses 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. It’s very interesting to hear about the continuing place of the sanatoria in TB treatment well after the inception of the ‘antibiotic age’. We have been given a wonderful scrapbook of sanatorium life from just a bit earlier, which also shows the close bonds formed between patients and staff in these institutions. Check back in the new year for some digital images, and please tell us more about your time there if you can. I should say that I was also a child TB patient, but by the time I was diagnosed in the 1970s, the sanatorium had disappeared completely — though I do remember those injections VERY clearly indeed: ouch!

  2. I think the object number of 1984 refers to the year the item was obtained by the science museum; I have viewed several items on the science museums catalogue related to medicine in the second world war which also have a 1984 prefix.

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