HOSPITALS have played a major part through the decades in keeping South Cumbrians healthy and living for longer and feature in our selection from The Mail’s picture archive.

The National Health Service was born on July 5 in 1948 and owed much to the work of Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health in the 1945 Labour Government.

NHS influence can be seen in the radical change in the life expectancy of the average citizen of the British Isles - up from 66 years for men and 71 for women around the time the NHS began to 79 years for men and 83 for women by 2011.

There have been major changes since 1948, such as bringing several Barrow treatment sites together at Furness General Hospital - officially opened by the Queen in May 1985.

Places like the former North Lonsdale Hospital in Barrow had been built by public subscription and kept open by insurance payments - long before the provision of free public health services.

They had played their part in making life longer and less painful in industrial communities where accidents were common and where in 1851 the average age of death for men was just 40 and 42 for women.

How tough life could be in Cumbria and North Lancashire was revealed in a study day on mortality from 1500 to 1900 led by local historian Dr Alan Crosby for the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University.

There were many major incidents of infectious disease, often spread through communities weakened by famine.

In 1631 Preston cut itself off from the outside world as bubonic plague resulted in 950 burials at St John’s.

Places like Victorian Dalton, Lindal, Marton, Askam and Millom grew on the wealth of mining - but there was a human price to pay.

From 1830 to 1910 Lancashire saw 72 mine disasters which claimed at least five lives. They accounted for a total of 2,179 men and boys.

In the same period, Cumbria had 13 major disasters - eight of them at Whitehaven’s coal pits - which together took 355 lives.