Why was the NHS set up?
By Lee Emmett
In July 1948, a groundbreaking plan to make healthcare no longer exclusive to those who could afford it, but accessible to everyone at the point of access, was introduced in Britain. And the National Health Service (NHS) was born.
But what were the motivations behind the launch of the NHS?
Before the NHS
Before the NHS existed, those requiring care from a doctor or medical facilities were generally expected to pay for those treatments. In some cases, local authorities ran hospitals for taxpayers, an approach that began with the Poor Law; a system that saw people on low-income living in special workhouses to earn their food, accommodation and healthcare.
The introduction of the NHS in the 1940’s was the product of years of hard work, and the desire to provide good, strong and reliable healthcare to the British people.
Those behind the 1909 Minority Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law argued it was ‘narrow-minded’ for those in charge to believe that low-income families should be entirely accountable for their circumstance and health. Despite these strong arguments, many ideas in the report were disregarded by the government. Over time, more and more people began to speak out including physician Dr Benjamin Moore, who had a pioneering vision for British healthcare, and was one of the first to use the phrase ‘National Health Service’. It would be 30+ years before his ideas would feature in the Beveridge Report, which paved the way for the introduction of the NHS.
In 1942, Sir William Beveridge, a government economist, was commissioned to write a report on social policy advising how Britain should rebuild after World War II. He identified society’s five ‘great evils’: want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. He proposed an ambitious system designed to set new standards for citizen welfare, a system we now call the welfare state. A key focus of the report was a national health service, paid for by taxes; this idea went on to form the basis for the NHS when it was introduced in 1948.
The NHS today
70+ years after its creation, the NHS remains at the heart of British life. It has gone through many changes, improvements and updates and in many ways, has exceeded expectations. Read about the different types of NHS careers and how the NHS is funded.