How our NHS came to be

NHS at 70


Health minister Aneurin Bevan on the first day of the NHS, 5 July 1948, at Park Hospital, Davyhulme, Manchester

Private doctors were unhappy 70 years ago as the NHS took shape. Independent Practitioner Today traces the history of the health service in the first of a new series adapted from a new book by Dr Ellen Welch.

Hospitals 70 years ago were in a poor condition following war-time bombing. Most had been built in the late 1800s and were beginning to crumble even before the Blitz of World War II.

There was no sort of health system at the time and hospitals had been established over the years in a haphazard fashion.

Most relied on GPs and unpaid consultants, who worked for free in exchange for a secure base for private practice.

The relationship between the medical profession and the state has always been guarded. Many doctors were opposed to the establishment of the NHS, as they disliked the idea of becoming employees of the state, and the BMA led a vigorous campaign against it; some even comparing Health Minister Aneurin Bevan’s autocratic proposals to Nazi Germany.

Hospital doctors relied on private patients to boost their income and were wary of a new system that would endanger this.