Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The National Health Service Act 1946

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 05 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6346
  1. John Lister, senior lecturer in health journalism, Coventry University
  1. arx226{at}

Some good things come in small packages: and this compact document changed the world. Its proposals opened up the possibility of modern medicine, sweeping away economic barriers to healthcare that had excluded up to half the population.

There is also a beauty in simplicity, and even in the dry parliamentary language of a bill that in its first few paragraphs sets up the first ever universal and comprehensive tax-funded healthcare system, free to all at point of use.

This is more poignant in light of the current debate over attempts …

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