'The new health service has been having a most uneasy gestation and a very turbulent birth, but all prodigies behave like that... We shall never have all we need. Expectation will always exceed capacity ... the service must always be changing, growing and improving; it must always appear inadequate.'

Aneurin Bevan, minister of health, 25 June 1948

'On Monday morning you wake up in a new Britain, in a state which 'takes over' its citizens six months before they are born, providing care and free services for their birth, for their early years, their schooling, sickness, workless days, widowhood and retirement. All this with free doctoring, dentistry and medicine - free bath chairs too if needed - for 4/11 (24p) out of your weekly pay packet. You begin paying next Friday.'

Daily Mail, 3 July 1948

'If you are going to be ill, be ill now because heaven knows what will happen to you if you don't. If you leave it till after 5 July you will probably make a job for me. This is what the socialists call planning, but some of us call the new lunacy.'

Reverend Irving Bulman, vicar of St Galbriel's, Cricklewood

'The Appointed Day, 5 July 1948, was by any standards one of the great days of British history. Bevan, who had slightly soured it by calling the Tories 'lower than vermin' in a speech in Manchester the night before, formally handed over the symbolic keys to the NHS at Park Hospital in Trafford - where exactly 40 years on a lottery to try to keep the hospital going was launched.'

Nicholas Timmins, The Five Giants

'However, this admirably Napoleonic exercise left out of account one factor of fundamental importance - the likely scale of demand for the free services to be on offer, from hospital treatment to dentures and spectacles. Bevan's scheme resembled a military plan for, say, the Normandy invasion, which simply left out such calculations as the number of vessels needed to overcome the enemy defences'.

Correlli Barnett, The Lost Victory

'There was abuse because suddenly it was all free. But on the other side was the very real unmet need that just poured in needing treatment. There were women with prolapsed uteruses simply wobbling down between their legs that had been held in place with cup and stem pessaries - like a big penis with a cup on it. It was the same with hernias.'

John Marks, future BMA leader, who qualified as a doctor on 5 July 1948

'Aneurin Bevan's introduction of the NHS was the one truly popular measure achieved by Labour, and its grudging acceptance by the Conservatives was a major political error.'

Robert Rhodes James, Anthony Eden

'Bevan had never been committed to the doctrinaire (socialist) prescription. His idea of socialised medicine centred rather on two principles of universality and free treatment - the extension on a national scale of the rights offered by the Tredegar Medical Aid Society in his youth... though the NHS became for him the symbol of the government's commitment to socialism, he was actually much less doctrinaire on health than he was on housing.'

John Campbell, Nye Bevan

'The minister came onto the platform, flanked by all his senior civil servants... he answered every question quickly and spontaneously: he did not refer to a single one of his advisers... we, all of us, came away impressed by the minister's mastery of his subject, and persuaded that here was a man who knew exactly what he was doing.'

Talbot Rogers, BMA negotiator in 1948

'He was a genuine man. There was nothing fake or false about him. If he felt a thing deeply he said so and in no uncertain terms... beneath the charm and ebullience of his Celtic temperament, he was a deeply serious man.'

Harold Macmillan, pre-war Bevan ally, Tory prime minister 1957-63

'I shall try to go about disguised after 5 July. Any mistake that is made I shall have to bleed for. I shall be going about like St Sebastian, pierced by a thousand javelins.'

Bevan addressing a nurses' rally, July 1948