1948: a turbulent gestation for the NHS

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7124.6 (Published 03 January 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:6

Some things don't change

  1. Gordon Macpherson, Former deputy editor
  1. BMJ

    This year is the 50th anniversary of Britain's National Health Service. On 5 July 1948 Aneurin Bevan, minister of health in the postwar Labour government, launched “a unique experiment in social engineering.”1 The experiment continues, but the public has long since judged it a success, even though that success has become tarnished in the 1990s.

    The NHS's gestation, however, was described by Bevan—in a classic understatement—as “not … altogether trouble-free.”2 Certainly, the months between December 1945, when the health minister made his first major policy statement to parliament, and the “appointed day” in 1948 were a turbulent period in medicopolitics. The unfolding dramas were faithfully chronicled by the BMJ, and in this opening issue of the anniversary year the journal publishes it first “filler” on the NHS selected from the issues of 50 years ago (p 20). Others will appear during the year, but not necessarily in …

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