NHS 70 - Maternal and Child Health in the beginning  

Photo's courtesy of the Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI)

Maternal and Child Health


Maternal and child health has seen remarkable transformations over the last seven decades.

The advent of the NHS in 1948 sparked a renewed interest in maternal health and saw improvements in obstetric care, whilst the high maternal and neonatal death rates of the late 19th and early 20th century continued to fall dramatically.

By 1956 51% of pregnant women attended antenatal clinics, which included dental care, health talks and cooking demonstrations.

Women were becoming more aware of how to protect their unborn child and their own health.

New technologies led to further change, with antenatal testing and monitoring available, most notably the ultrasound. Originally used as a diagnostic aid for high risk pregnancies, by the 1980s it was used routinely in all pregnancies.

Today, women giving birth can expect to receive safe, personalised care. A wide range of antenatal and postnatal support and advice is also provided, ensuring women are well informed and supported to make the best choices for themselves and their baby.


In 1936 maternity and child welfare schemes were reviewed with recommendations that GPs, school health services and those for under-5s be in a single service and by 1948, services were known as ‘child health’ rather than ‘child welfare’. 

In the 1950s and 60s, the health centre concept developed, linking preventative and treatment services with integrated services for children. 


Previously common childhood ailments such as ringworm and impetigo became very unusual.  Improved housing and diet were central to these improvements, along with immunisations which prevented common causes of infection.

Health Visitors played an important role in supporting children and families to maintain good health. Over the years their role has evolved, and today’s health visiting team now consists of staff nurses, nursery nurses and health care support workers. They offer advice on maternal and infant nutrition and help with issues such as sleep patterns, feeding concerns and behaviour as well as signposting to community services and groups.


We have placed cookies on your computer to improve your experience here. If you do not want us to use cookies you can change your settings at any time.