The NHS at 65

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The NHS was launched on July 5 1948. Over the 65 years since then it has continually grown, evolved and improved to become a source of national pride and a service envied around the world.

Healthcare before the NHS

In 1911 the Health Service in Britain ran an insurance system that gave benefits to the person paying into the scheme, but not their dependants. They also had access to a doctor, but this was limited in terms of what services could be provided. Hospital treatment was only for those with tuberculosis.
The Poor Law offered limited support to most struggling citizens. The Public Health system of the time provided school meals and education and eventually set up hospitals. Voluntary hospitals were available but only existed through charitable donations and quickly ran into trouble during the financial crisis of the 1930s.

Basically, the health systems in place in Britain were inadequate and limited for the country’s rapidly growing population and economy. Areas of particular concern were around hospital care and support for working class families. There was a heavy reliance on self-care, so illness and births caused major family issues.

1948 birth of the NHS

The NHS was created with the promise that “everybody, irrespective of means, age, sex or occupation, shall have equal opportunity to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available”.

The UK’s National Health Service came into existence on 5 July 1948. On this date, the then Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan, marked the inauguration with a visit to Park Hospital in Manchester – the first hospital in the world to offer free healthcare to all.

The demand for healthcare since the inception of the NHS has been growing. People in 1948 that had learnt to live with pain, illness and disease came forward for help, knowing they had no financial penalties.

Key facts and breakthroughs

  1. The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world along with the Chinese Army, Wal-Mart and the US Department of Defense.
  2. The NHS employs 1.3 million people across the UK.
  3. NHS Staff come in contact with 1.5 million patients every day.
  4. The oldest person to have a hip operation was a 101-year-old woman at Good Hope Hospital in the West Midlands.
  5. Britain’s first sextuplets were born at Birmingham Maternity Hospital in 1968 to Sheila Thorn.
  6. The world’s first test tube baby was born on 25 July 1978 in Oldham, since when more than a million IVF babies have been born.
  7. The average life expectancy has increased by at least 10 years since the NHS came into existence.