Happy Birthday to the NHS – 74 years old today

The NHS was launched on the 5th July 1948. To my mind, it is one of the milestones in British history of which we should be most proud. For the first time ever, we as a nation, created a health service, paid for out of taxation which was charged with

  1. meeting the needs of everyone
  2. being free at the point of delivery
  3. being based on clinical need, not on the ability to pay
Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health, on the first day of the National Health Service, 5 July 1948 at Park Hospital, Davyhulme, near Manchester. 

When the NHS was launched, 40% of people died before reaching pensionable age (which was then 65). Now, on average, a man can expect to live to 85 and a woman to 89.

In my grandfather’s pre-NHS generation, it was accepted that a working man was likely to live only a couple of years after retiring at 65, the age that I am now.

I am part of that fortunate baby-boomer generation who have had the NHS available for our whole lives. It has made and continues to make, a huge difference to my life and the lives of people I have loved.

The NHS is not perfect, no human institution can be, but it’s still there for all of us and no thanks can be enough for the people who spend their lives making it work.

It seems to me that the NHS is the most concrete commitment that we, as a nation, make to each other.

I know that it is under attack. I know that, for at least twelve years, it has been under-funded, under-staffed and its people have been underpaid by a government that wants to see it fail so that they can replace it with an insurance-based system that would make a profit for their friends and sponsors and would give the best care to those with the most to spend.

So far, the NHS has survived. Today, we should celebrate that.

Tomorrow and every day after, we should defend the NHS against those who do not believe in its principles.

Happy 74th birthday NHS. Thanks to you, I have a 25% chance of still being around to celebrate your centenary. I wish you well.

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