NHS70: Our health service’s milestones
It was launched by Aneurin Bevan in 1948 and now 70 years later the NHS is celebrating a landmark anniversary.
Much has changed as the health service has evolved to reach its platinum year, but the core values of meeting the needs of everyone, being free at the point of delivery, and being based on clinical need, not the ability to pay.
In 1948 Mr Bevan, then health minister, dubbed the NHS the “biggest single experiment in social service that the world has ever seen undertaken”.
The next year, in 1949, the health service was given the power to charge for prescriptions and by 1952 the NHS could charge one shilling (5p) for a prescription and a flat rate of £1 for dental treatment.
Up until 1954 parents of children in hospital had only been allowed to visit them for an hour on Saturdays and Sundays but paediatricians Sir James Spence in Newcastle and Alan Moncriff at Great Ormond Street Hospital changed this and introduced daily visiting.
By 1959 polio and diphtheria vaccines were introduced for children under 15 and led to a dramatic drop in cases.
It was also an important decade for mental illness, as the Mental Health Act prioritised community care over asylums and aimed to make mental illness as important as physical illness.
At the turn of the decade, the first UK kidney transplant took place at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the next year, in 1961, there was a revolution when the contraceptive pill was made widely available.
It was also the year of Enoch Powell’s water tower speech, considered one of the biggest milestones of the revolution in mental health treatment.
The same arguments that rage in the health service today were also present in 1962 as the medical profession warred over the separation of the NHS into three parts - hospitals, GPs, and health authorities.
By 1967 abortion was legalised, while in 1968 Britain saw its first heart transplant and the birth of sextuplets after fertility treatment.
CT scanners, now commonplace, revolutionised the way doctors examined the body in 1972.
And in 1978 the world’s first test-tube baby Louise Brown was born, on July 25. More than one million children worldwide have since been conceived by IVF.
More technological advances in the 1980s prompted MRI scanners to be introduced.
The decade is also known for the shock AIDS health campaign, after a number of high-profile deaths.
The NHS as we know it today first started to form in 1990, when health trusts were created as providers of care.
The 90s also played host to the setting up of the organ donation register, in 1994. It followed a five-year campaign by John and Rosemary Cox from the West Midlands. In 1989, their 24-year-old son Peter died of a brain tumour. He had asked for his organs to be used to help others.
Into the new millennium walk-in centres were introduced and the NHS Plan brought about the biggest changes to healthcare since 1948.
The much referenced A&E targets, where patients are not supposed to spend more than four hours in A&E were launched in 2002.
In 2007 smoking was banned in public places in England, and a revolutionary robotic arm was used at St Mary’s Hospital, London, to treat patients for fast or irregular heartbeats.
By 2008 patients were allowed to choose any hospital or clinic which meets NHS standards to receive their care in.
In the same year Lord Darzi launched his Next Stage Review, the biggest consultation process in the history of the NHS which involved more than 60,000 staff and members of the public.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) was launched in April 2009 as a new regulator for health, mental health and adult social care. And also in 2009 patients were told they should not wait more than 18 weeks for treatment.
In the last eight years one of the most controversial changes to the NHS was Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, which put clinicians at the centre of commissioning.
The NHS was celebrated in the London Olympic Games opening ceremony in 2012. More than 600 nurses and other healthcare workers joined Danny Boyle’s army of volunteers during the extravaganza.
Now, as the NHS moves forward, there is to be more reform. But one thing is for certain , the NHS is loved across the country and held dear by many.
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