SEVENTY years ago Stan and Joan Sinfield began working for the newly-founded National Health Service.

Today, aged 93 and 91, the couple - who met through the job - are still very much part of the NHS, volunteering at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

The NHS, as we know it, began on July 5, 1948, three years after the Labour party came to power. It was part of an extensive programme of welfare measures.

Stan and Joan were there at the start, joining the then Bradford executive council of the NHS., based in Manor Row.

“In 1948 everyone who wanted to register filled in a form, which was handed to their doctor who sent us the details,” explains Stan. “We then prepared record cards, or medical cards as they were called, and provided envelopes for them to be kept in.”

Each card had a reference made up of both letters and numbers. In recent years this has been replaced and is now made up entirely of numbers.

“We had to put on their name and address and the number of their identity card – in those days everyone had an identity card.”

The volume of work meant many people were involved. “Students were also employed to help - they were recruited especially for the job,” says Stan. “We had to prepare around 200,000 documents. We started at 8am and would be working up until 8.30 or 9pm.”

Before the National Health Service was created, patients were generally required to pay for their health care. Free treatment was sometimes available from Voluntary Hospitals. Some local authorities operated hospitals for local ratepayers, under a system originating with the Poor Law system, which existed until the emergence of the modern welfare state after the Second World War. Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, was given the task of introducing the NHS.

The cards did not contain any information as to an individual’s medical history.

“It was all done by hand in those days, whereas now it would be inputted to a computer,” says Stan. “We also prepared prescription pads, upon which doctors would write prescriptions. We would stamp them with the doctor’s name and address.”

Stan started work a year before the NHS began, to pave the way for it, while Joan joined a month before. “We worked in the same office,” recalls Stan. “I was 23 and she was 21.”

The couple, who live in Eccleshill, remained friends for several years before they married, enjoying their hobby of cycling.

“We were members of a cycling club,” says Joan. “We went to the South of France, cycling with friends. The T&A took our picture at Bradford Interchange before we set off. We went by train and plane, then cycled through Switzerland, Italy and along the French Riviera. It was an unusual thing to do in those days.”

Joan remembers her mother Annie paying for medicine to treat her and her two siblings when they were unwell. The money was paid in installments, collected every Friday. “I remember her saying ‘I’ve just paid the doctor’s bill,” says Joan, “And then one of us would be poorly again, so she was never free of having the ‘doctor man’ coming. It was the same with Stan’s family.

“When you think back to what it was like then, you can appreciate how amazing the NHS is.”

Once the system was established, they worked in the optical department, handling applications for glasses. “We were overwhelmed by the number of applications,” says Stan.

“There were so many applications for glasses, and also for dentures, that it was obvious that people had not been able to afford them before.”

Over the years, the couple, who have three children and four grandchildren, have enjoyed other careers including running a grocery shop. Aged 14, Stan worked as a copy boy for the Telegraph & Argus, and later worked for Bradford Council’s cleansing department.

But they loved their time working for the NHS so much that for many years they volunteered their services to Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Based at Bradford Royal Infirmary, they are now the oldest volunteers.

Joan has been helping out for 25 years, and Stan for 20 years. “We were both in the tea bar at first,” says Joan, who now helps in the diabetic unit.

“I go to the waiting room and ask if anyone would like a cup of tea,” she says. “I feel like I am doing my bit to help.”

Stan works in the health information centre. “We offer information and give out leaflets - for instance if someone wants to stop smoking we have information on that. We don’t give advice. We can also access the internet,” he says.

The Trust has more than 450 volunteers, giving their time to help patients, staff and visitors. Stan and Joan love their roles.

“Everyone is really nice, it is wonderful,” says Joan.

Their son Alan, a retired telecommunications manager, is following in their footsteps, and also now volunteers at the hospital.

"He takes the trolley round, offering people newspapers and magazines. We occasionally bumb into him," says Stan.