Three Cumbrians who were among the first to be born into the National Health Service after it was formed have paid tribute to its success.

Dan Birtwistle from Ulverston, Susan Sewell, of Aspatria, and Susan Dobinson, from Workington; all share their 70th birthdays with the NHS, and are getting ready for a double celebration this week.

Susan Dobinson, from Great Clifton, near Workington, was born at 12.01am on July 5 - becoming one of the first ever NHS babies.

"I was a home birth so I wasn't born in an NHS hospital, but obviously a midwife was there. We would have had to pay for that if I'd been born just minutes earlier," she said.

Susan, who is the fifth of seven children, said the National Health Service has since served her family well.

"I really value the NHS. Without it we would all have to have health insurance and pay for all our treatment. I took ill on holiday a few years ago and they called the doctor to give me an injection. I got a bill for £120.

"I've also had family members who've had cancer treatment. I can't thank the NHS enough for what it has done," said Susan, a grandmother of six who runs the Market Cross pub in Great Clifton.

I have a grandson who works at the West Cumberland Hospital and I'm very proud of him."

She is planning trip to Blackpool to celebrate her 70th birthday.

Susan Sewell was born at about 3am on July 5, 1948.

She is still quite amused by the story of her birth.

"When my mother went into labour everyone was mystified by her obsessive interest in the time," she said.

"She kept on asking 'What time is it? What time is it?' At midnight she became quiet. The National Health Service had come into operation and everything was free.

"That was a big relief for my parents, given that I was born in a private nursing home which they really could not afford. She'd had a very bad experience with her first-born, my older brother, and did not want to take any chances this time.

"It was a story my mother always used to tell me, right from when I was a little girl. As I've grown older I 've realised just how important the NHS was and still is. It took the fear out of people's lives, and there were people who would surely have died without it.

"People take it for granted now but people used to afraid of getting ill, especially with all the infectious diseases that were around back then and the poor living conditions."

Susan was born in Portsmouth but moved to Cumbria to complete her teacher training, going on to teach in the Whitehaven area. She's lived in Aspatria for more than 20 years.

When the NHS turned 50, Susan was invited to 10 Downing Street for a reception with Tony and Cherie Blair.

This time she said she isn't having a big birthday party, but does have plans for Thursday.

A bellringer, she and husband Gerald plan to ring a quarter peal at Brampton to celebrate her birth and the NHS anniversary.

Also that day, she will attend an NHS celebration event at Aspatria Medical Practice as a special guest.

Dan was born at Risedale Maternity Hospital in Barrow three days after the NHS formed on July 8, becoming one of the first National Health Service babies in Furness.

His mum Rose, who died in 2000, had a difficult and long labour, resulting in her needing a caesarean section.

This wasn't as common a procedure as it is today and afterwards she had to stay in hospital for 10 days.

She would likely have been landed with a large bill if he had been born a few days earlier, before the NHS.

When Dan was just six he needed the National Health Service again after contracting tuberculosis, a serious and potentially-fatal infectious disease that was more common in the 1950s.

It was so serious that he spent two years in High Carley Hospital, in Ulverston, alongside other boys of about the same age.

For 13 months he was confined to bed, having daily injections, and his family could only visit for two hours a week.

"It wasn't very nice. It was a bit like being in an orphanage. These days drugs alone would cure it. Things have moved on a lot," he said.

But Dan will always be thankful to the NHS, which did ultimately save his life when he was a child and helped his mum when he was born.

"Being one of the first NHS babies in Furness is a great honour. It was only 20 years ago, on the 50th anniversary, that I realised the significance. I've always had a good relationship with the NHS. I've always been very grateful for what they have done," he said.

"If I'd been born a few days earlier I'm sure my mum would have had to pay, probably paying it back for years."

Dan is set to celebrate his 70th birthday this weekend with a party for friends at the Laurel and Hardy Museum.