How we got here

Tracing Our Roots

Where we are today in private healthcare owes much to the development of the NHS. Dr Ellen Welch presents some of the key milestones down its 70 years.


The first decade of the NHS was not without its problems, but it was successful enough to cement it into an institution.

A free, universal service was a huge cultural change from what had preceded it and, only three years into the NHS, financial challenges became evident, resulting in the introduction of charges for prescriptions, dental and optical services by the end of 1952.

The 50s saw a post-war baby boom and the introduction of technologies such as the microwave oven, plastics, nylon stockings and computers.

Medical technology also thrived. Ultrasound was adapted for use in foetal monitoring and the success of antibiotics in the 1940s was followed by a rash of new drugs.

 1950 The link between smoking and lung cancer is proven. Richard Doll had been studying lung cancer patients since the 1940s, expecting to find it was caused by fumes from coal fires or cars, but instead found that smokers are more likely to die of lung cancer than non-smokers.

He also found an increased risk of heart disease. Doll quit smoking during his study and lived to the age of 92.