Fillers Fifty years ago

The new NHS: NHS

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 14 November 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1353

No one expected that such a vast scheme as that outlined in the National Health Service Act of 1946 would begin in a way that would please everybody—least of all those upon whom the main burden of the work falls, the medical men and women of this country. The situation is still too confused to give anything like a clear picture of what is happening, but perhaps the most noteworthy fact is the eagerness with which the public has sought to take advantage of a service which, in effect, guarantees the supply, free of direct charge, of everything from wigs to iron lungs. There has been an overwhelming demand for spectacles and dentures, and a run on the chemist shops so fast at times as almost to exhaust the supplies of certain pharmaceutical products. Presumably in time the novelty will wear off and the demand for such things as spectacles will decrease as the numbers of those apparently needing them diminish. This rush of the public for remedies and appliances has put an acute strain upon the medical professions especially those in general practice. Evidence comes in from all over the country that doctors' surgeries are crowded out, and the doctors themselves deplore that this heavy pressure of work has made it at times impossible for them to give their patients adequate care and attention. If the demand for the doctor's time continues at the present level we can foresee that in the event of an epidemic in the winter the life of the general practitioner in particular will become intolerable. (Letter, 3 November 1948, p 864. See also editorial by Gordon Macpherson, 3 January 1998, p 6.)

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