On 24th April 1944, before Victory in Europe, Mr Neville, of the Ministry of Health, signed on behalf of a committee of the great and the good a document outlining the demobilisation of the emergency hospital service.

This had been established at the outset of hostilities in 1939 when central control had been imposed.

Now the hospitals could be demobilised, but they should be kept in operation till the NHS, clearly on the horizon, was established.

The Conservatives’ White Paper on the NHS had yet to appear, but much central planning for a future hospital service had been going on, and the committee assumed that all forms of hospital treatment would be free for all people, paid from taxes. The service might come into operation within a year or two of victory.

The document attempted to set out where savings might accrue, as war injuries would no longer require care. Virtually every hospital in England and Wales was listed and substantial savings were predicted as the burden on the service was ‘likely to fall by 40%’ with the end of the war. Fewer nurses and consultants would be needed and the estimated cost of the future National Health Service was £21 million.

Planning had begun on assumptions that were entirely fallacious as to the demands that would fall on a free service.

For a fuller account of the struggle, see www.nhshistory.net