5th July 1948. Brave New World?

Some words by Florence Nightingale: ‘I have come to believe that the hospital system is only an intermediary stage of civilisation…that the poor are better relieved in their own home.’

The British National Health Service came into being Today on July 5 1948, after a long campaign by Health Minister, Aneurin Bevan.

It was introduced by a Labour Government, along with a National Insurance Scheme, together with other welfare systems dealing with the unemployed and the elderly.

Bevan opening Park Hospital 1948.

Bevan opening Park Hospital, Manchester in 1948.

The new Service gave free prescriptions and medical treatment for the entire population, at the point of access, a Service of which The British Dental Association, in June, refused be a part.(1)

Nine hundred and ninety two local offices of the Ministry of National Insurance along with 2751 hospitals, were now to come under the new Regional Health Boards.

It was the 1944 Beveridge Report which had recommended a ‘welfare society’: the word ‘state’ didn’t appear in any of his proposals.

Beveridge thought the NHS would improve the nation’s health so much that eventually less money would be needed to run the service. However even by the 1960s, it was apparent that the cost was many times the 1940s projected figures.

Also low permanent unemployment was assumed post-war, and no-one could foresee the affect of medical science to extend life, and thus cost to the NHS, apart from escalating bureaucratic costs.

Then there was the inevitable loss of understanding of the close nexus between patient demand and cost in a free service. This with a rapidly ageing population brought matters to a head in the new millennium, with wide ranging problems.

In 2009 it was revealed that about £800 million was set aside for insurance claims. In November two NHS Trust Hospitals, Colchester University and Basildon University were under scrutiny for poor hygiene and an apparent large numbers of unusual deaths.

A newly-qualified doctor, in a hospital, it was reported, said she and a junior doctor were on duty at night and week-end dealing with life and death issues, and even General Practitioners (GPs) rang her for help.(2)

In 2011 after costing 12 billion£  the IT system was scrapped as unworkable, and the private building initiative was proving to be unsustainable. A failing hospital in Cambridgeshire was set to be run by a private company, the first since 1948.

A report on Stafford Hospital in 2013 revealed that over a 1000 patients died needlessly, due to appalling medical and nursing care, as more attention was focussed on reducing costs to achieve Government targets and ‘Trust’ status.

By 2015 the NHS was rarely out of the news with one disaster following another with Accident and Emergency Departments overwhelmed, as it was easier to go there, than getting a GP’s appointment.

(1) Free glasses and even wigs were also on prescription, an ideal which was changed to payments per article.

Prescription charges were introduced by the Tories in 1952 at 1 shilling (5p); abolished by Labour in 1965 and re-introduced 1968.

(2) Reported in Daily Mail, September 2010.

Ref: nhs.uk/nhshistory. Pic Ref.

Ref: nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice.

Ref: Daily Mail. 26.6.2013. Amanda Cable.

Ref: Burton Mail. 9.5.2013.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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