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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