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Last updated:30 August 2018

Happy 70th birthday NHS

July 2018 - Happy 70th birthday, NHS

On 5 July 1948 the NHS was born, and our objects of the month are two pamphlets from the time.

‘The essence of a satisfactory health service is that the rich and the poor are treated alike, that poverty is not a disability, and wealth is not advantaged. In place of fear, 1952


NHS pamphlet coverPark Hospital, now Trafford General Hospital, was chosen for the ceremonial opening of the new National Health Service which brought 1,143 voluntary hospitals with 90,000 beds and 1,545 municipal hospitals with 390,000 beds into the new service. From that day all charges to patient or relatives ceased.

Nye Bevan arrived to inaugurate the NHS by symbolically receiving the keys from Lancashire County Council. Nurses formed a “guard of honour” outside the hospital to meet him.

This revolution in health provision had an immediate and profound effect on the lives of people who, previously, had limited access to medical care.





 ‘We ought to take pride in the fact that, despite our financial and economic anxieties, we are still able to do the most civilised thing in the world - put the welfare of the sick in front of every other consideration.’  (Nye Bevan)

‘That we are doing this undismayed by debt and deficit, dubious international relations and an aging population is a great tribute to the courage and resilience of our people.’ (New Statesman, on the introduction of the National Insurance scheme)

NHS pamphlet cover


Harry Leslie Smith, born in 1923 into a poor Yorkshire coal mining family, described in his book, Harry’s last stand, how his sister, Marion died of TB, painfully and slowly, with no medical attention in the time before the NHS. He went on to write:

‘To me, the introduction of free health care was the first brick laid on the road to the social welfare state. So it has always been difficult for me to listen to politicians, proud possessors of health insurance and shares in private health care companies, when they talk about how the health service that we fought so hard to build must change…

…Where will all of this end? What will be given the greatest priority in a new health care system that sends every service, from blood work to chemotherapy, out to the lowest bid tender?

It ends where I began my life – in a Britain that believed health care depended on your social status. One-fifth of the lords who voted in the controversial [2012 Health and Social Care] Act – which provides a gateway to privatise our health care system – were found to have connections to private health care companies. If that doesn't make you angry, nothing will.’

Veronica Trick, volunteer, and the rest of the volunteer exhibition team

‘The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.’ (Nye Bevan)