ELIZABETH Brown had her first experience of the new NHS the year that it was formed.

It was 1948 and, aged 10, she was admitted to hospital in Glasgow to finally have a lazy eye corrected.

She had been left with the defect after a bout of diphtheria aged two in 1940, at a time when her parents had no choice but to pay for treatment.

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The infection - which babies and children are now routinely vaccinated against in the UK - is highly contagious and potentially fatal.

"I never knew what they were charged to treat it, but the diphtheria left me with a lazy eye and it would be just when the NHS came into being that my father got me booked in to the eye hospital in Glasgow for an operation to straighten my eye. I would have been around 10 at the time, so it was eight years later.

"If they'd had to pay, my parents would have left it I'm sure. My grandmother brought us up in Glasgow during the war and only once was I taken to the GP before the NHS came in and that was because I had a poisoned ankle.

"She had to pay half a crown [£4.44 today]. That's what they had to pay to see the doctor and it was quite a lot of money then, so they never went very often."

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As an adult, Mrs Brown joined the NHS as an auxiliary nurse, working initially in Bristol in 1964 before returning to Scotland with her husband and daughter and working at the former Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh in the 1970s.

Her first job in Edinburgh paid just over £1000 a year for a 40-hour week with four weeks' holiday pay.

She said: "You had more nurses then on the wards to what there is nowadays. We bathed patients, dressed them, fed them, looked after them - we did everything the the nurses did except handling the drugs.

"I loved the camaraderie of working on the wards with other nurses - we had lots of fun.

"By the 1990s I was working at the Royal Victoria hospital and even then I felt that we were really always short-staffed. You were run off your feet, it's not an easy job and you were always tired at the end of your shift.

"I did notice that over the course of my career - they never had the staff like they did going back years ago.

"But I still enjoyed it."

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Mrs Brown, who is now 80 and living in Blackhall in Edinburgh, retired in 1998. She said she noticed a lot of changes for the better during her career.

"When I go way back, when we had patients with strokes and things you had to lift them manually without any equipment. It was only later that lifts and hoists and things came in, which was a great improvement for your back. I'm sure that was why some of the older nurses had terrible back problems later on.

"Also when I worked in the old Royal in the 1970s, you'd get stroke patients come in and they were in there for long periods of time - sometimes a year even - and they'd get the physiotherapy on the ward.

"By the time I was working at the Royal Victoria they were out quicker. They didn't lie in bed so long. They got them moving quicker and home quicker. Things had improved a lot for them."

Mrs Brown experienced the benefits of the NHS directly when her husband suffered a brain haemorrhage in the 1990s, aged 60. He was operated on at the Western Infirmary and lived another 20 years, passing away in 2013.

Now a grandmother and great-grandmother, Mrs Brown stays in touch with colleagues through the Edinburgh branch of the NHS Retirement Fellowship, which meets every Thursday in Augustine United Church at the George IV Bridge.

She has no regrets on her choice of career.

"To me, it was the best job ever. I just loved working and looking after people. You got a lot of satisfaction at seeing people who were ill get well. It's lovely.

"If you had a stroke patient in, you could see them walk after a while. It was a lovely feeling to see people ill and get so much better and go home. I don't think I would have liked to have done any other job.