In celebration of the 65th Anniversary of the National Health Service, RCOG Heritage brings you this wonderful picture which was drawn by Sir Anthony Alment, former RCOG President (1978-1981).
It is just one of a series of drawings by Sir Anthony, all commenting on the state of health services during the 1940s and 1950s. This drawing shows Anuerin Bevan, Minister of Health in 1948, riding on a horse called ‘The Act’ (ie. National Health Act), and accompanied by the skeleton of ‘medical doctrine’. The bird perched on the sign directing the Act towards the launch date of 5th July is a bird of prey in the shape of Charles Hill, Secretary of the British Medical Association. Hill negotiated with Aneurin Bevan to ensure that GPs did not simply become salaried employees under the Act, and was a popular voice of public medicine, broadcasting as ‘The Radio Doctor’ for the BBC during the Second World War.
The cartoon is based on the First World War cartoon of the same name drawn by the Dutch painter, Louis Raemaekers, whose drawings heavily criticised the rule of the German military in Belgium, portraying the Germans as barbarians and Kaiser Wilhelm II as an ally of Satan. Raemaeker’s cartoon ‘The Last Ride’ shows the German Kaiser riding with Death into a barren landscape watched over by a bird of prey: Alment’s interpretation in his ‘Last Ride Together?’ suggests that the new National Health Act is being driven by the Government into an equally barren land directed by outdated medical doctrine with medical critics eager to swoop in and pick over the ruins.
I would love to hear from anyone if they have any other interpretations!
Penny, RCOG Archives