The jewel in welfare's crown

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7150.2 (Published 04 July 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:2

The NHS will glisten still if it retains middle class support

  1. Nicholas Timmins, Public policy editor.
  1. Financial Times, London SE1 9HL

    “On Monday morning you will wake up in a new Britain, in a state which ‘takes over’ its citizens six months before they are born, providing care and free services for their birth, for their early years, their schooling, sickness, workless days, widowhood and retirement. All this with free doctoring, dentistry and medicine—free bath-chairs, too, if needed—for 4/11d out of your weekly pay packet. You begin paying next Friday.”

    Thus the Daily Mail in its leader column greeted the imminent arrival of the National Health Service on 5 July 1948. It is often forgotten that the birth of the NHS was not just an isolated event. It was part of the biggest single tranche of welfare state reconstruction that the United Kingdom has seen. Its arrival coincided with dramatic improvements to social security—the creation of family allowances, retirement pensions for all, new industrial injuries schemes, the raising of the school leaving age to 15, and the start of a great explosion in council house building.

    It was just one part of the huge effort in postwar reconstruction presaged in the Beveridge report of 1942 and made possible by the immense sense of social solidarity generated by …

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