Post NHS (1948-1986)

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Post NHS (1948-1986)' page
Free at the point of delivery

The National Health Service Act 1946 came into effect on 5 July 1948 replacing the patchwork of private, municipal and charity health insurance schemes that had been on offer in the early 20th century. After a White Paper in 1944, the Labour government, lead by Clement Attlee, created the NHS as part of their ‘cradle-to-grave’ welfare-state reforms. In the aftermath of the Second World War this was very popular among the electorate as many people had laid down their lives for King and country.

Aneurin Bevan, the newly appointed Minister for Health, was given the task of establishing a National Health Service, but not all the credit can be given to him as the blueprint for a free medical service was the vision of the Socialist Medical Association (SMA) – a body founded by a number of Labour party members in 1930. Their aim was to create a free socialised medical service, open to all, where doctors would be salaried employees rather than private practitioners. The SMA influenced medical and Labour Party policies during the inter-war period – particularly in London –  and at a local level influenced the development of healthcare provision in Hackney.

Somerville Hastings, the president of the SMA, indeed claimed publicly that the post-war Labour government's National Health Service was in large part attributable to the work of the SMA. However, Bevan and Hastings did not share the same vision. Bevan thought that a national health service should be a centrally-controlled system rather than a system operated by regional authorities. He thought this would prevent inequalities between different regions. He also made concessions to the medical profession over issues such as private practice – something that Hastings did not support. Although a commitment was made to develop health centres, this only happened at the John Scott Health Centre in Hackney. Despite Hastings’ differences of opinion he did welcome and defend the National Health Service, but viewed it only as the first step towards a socialised medical service.

On 5 July 1948, at Park Hospital in Manchester, Bevan unveiled the National Health Service and stated "We now have the moral leadership of the world".



Post NHS (1948-1986)
Post NHS (1948-1986) (201k)

This page was added by Lisa Rigg on 23/03/2010.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.