The 5th of July is the most important date in the history of the NHS.
When the service was created in 1948, NHS founder Aneurin Bevan sent a message to the medical profession. He spoke of the profession’s worries about discouragement of professional freedom and worsening of a doctor’s material livelihood - and said if there were problems they could easily be put right. He referred to a sense of real professional opportunity1.
The British Medical Journal was not so sanguine2. While seeing the logic of spreading the high cost of illness over the whole of the community, it saw dangers in a state medical service: dogma, timidity, lack of incentive, administrative hypertrophy, stereotyped procedure and lack of intellectual freedom.
However, much had been gained in negotiation over the previous months and now the medical profession would cooperate with the government. There was an opportunity to mould the service in partnership with the Ministry of Health. The service would have to evolve and there would be much trial and error. But the opportunity of building a healthy Britain would be grasped eagerly.
For a fuller account of the events, see www.nhshistory.net.
1-British Medical Journal 3 July 1948
2-British Medical Journal (editorial) 3 July 1948