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Doctor's Dilemma, The (1948)


Main image of Doctor's Dilemma, The (1948)
35mm, black and white, 99 mins
Production CompanyCentral Office of Information

Trailer advising the public on how to register with doctors operating under the new National Health Service.

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Monday 5th July 1948 was an auspicious date in the history of British politics, for on this day the new National Health Service (NHS), offering free medical care to all, came into operation.

This trailer, with a remit to instruct the public on what they needed to do in order to benefit from the new scheme, was shown in cinemas across the country during the lead up to the inauguration, and would have been distributed in conjunction with a larger media campaign involving newspapers, radio and posters.

The family doctor has always been the first point of contact for people requiring primary care, and here, simple bold visuals accompanying the voice-over's step-by-step instructions on how to sign up with a general practitioner (GP) impart an unambiguous message. As each phrase is spoken it appears as words on the screen: "Have you chosen your family doctor? If not, ask your doctor now if he'll look after you under the new scheme".

It is now hard to imagine life before state-controlled medical care, but prior to the establishment of the NHS surgeries were run as private enterprises, and consultations, treatment and prescriptions all had to be paid for upfront. National Insurance, introduced by the Liberals in 1911, covered some of the medical costs of low-paid workers (mostly male) but not of their dependants, and in many parts of the country citizens had to rely on a patchwork system of health care offered by the voluntary sector.

Stripped of any stylistic embellishment, the film is a triumph of public information pithiness. As the final words, "Don't Forget Choose Your Doctor Now", loomed large over a cinema audience, they couldn't have failed to instil a sense of urgency in any member of the public who hadn't yet filled out the relevant GP registration form.

Katy McGahan

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Video Clips
Complete film (1:01)
Public Information Fillers