On the 5th July 1948, healthcare provision in the UK was nationalized when the National Health Service was launched. The idea was to bring together everyone involved in healthcare provision into one organisation that would provide care that was “free at the point of delivery”. Funding would come directly from taxation, meaning that people paid for the service according to their means.
The Labour government of Clement Atlee won the first post-war election with a pledge to implement the recommendations of the 1942 Beveridge Report and improve the social welfare system in Britain. The following year the National Health Service Act 1946 created the NHS in England and Wales, while NHS Scotland was established in 1947.
The NHS didn’t appear without opposition, however. The Conservative Party was particularly hostile to providing universal care through taxation, while many consultants and doctors were concerned about low pay and the loss of the opportunity to top up their earnings by taking on private patients.
The health minister, Bevan, recognised the problem of having a nationalised health system without consultants and doctors so agreed to raise the pay for consultants. He also allowed them and GPs to run their own private practices.
The first year of the NHS was incredibly expensive, costing more than twice the budgeted amount. However, Bevan claimed that this was due to years of under-provision, and a ‘rush’ to take advantage in case free healthcare was later scrapped. Although costs have continued to rise with continued advances in medical science, the NHS is still a central part of the UK’s identity.