NHS turns 70 years old

National Health Service celebrates 70th birthday

In terms of the achievements in British healthcare, the fact that the NHS is turning 70 on Thursday 5th July has to be one if the biggest and best.

Launched on 5th July 1948 by health secretary Aneurin Bevan at what is now Trafford General Hospital, the NHS was designed to ensure that everyone had access to free healthcare.

Prior to this, access to any sort of healthcare was beyond the reach of the poorest in our society, for whom a simple doctor’s visit could cost as much as half a week’s wages. The result was that many people suffered and indeed died because they could not afford the help of medical professionals that could be easily ‘purchased’ by those who were wealthier.

Seeking to tackle this immense social inequality, the NHS was funded entirely from taxation, ensuring that everyone had access to the same level of public healthcare, but only paid into it according to their means.

How the NHS has developed

Of course, when originally set up, the NHS had very different challenges to those it has today. Although there was a much smaller UK population in 1948, health specialists did not have access to the amazing developments in surgery, pharmaceuticals and other areas of healthcare that have made previously impossible treatments a reality and enabled general life expectancy to grow from 66 years for men and 71 for women to 79 for men and 82 for women.

Of course, the knock-on effect of all of these advances in medicine is that our NHS is now costing much more than initially envisaged. According to Rachel Harker, author of Social and General Statistics, in “the first full year of its operation, the Government spent £11.4bn on health in the UK. In 2010/11, the figure was over ten times that amount: £121bn.”

Of course, this staggering amount of expenditure is small wonder considering that the NHS now deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours. In fact, every year it carries out over 10 million operations, processes over 16 million hospital admissions, handles over 23 million A&E attendances and deals with over 89 million outpatient attendances.

With so many UK citizens benefitting from our NHS, it is truly the beating and inseparable heart of our country’s healthcare.

Celebrating 70 years of healthcare for all

To celebrate 70 years of the NHS, NHS England is working with NHS Improvement and a number of partners to mark the occasion.

For example, it is planning a range of events to thank NHS staff and volunteers, including ceremonies at Westminster Abbey and York Minster. It has also worked with The Royal Mint to produce a commemorative NHS 10p coin and is encouraging anyone who finds one to take a picture and share it via social media using the hashtags #NHS70 and #coinhunt.

In addition, NHS England is working with two national projects that are funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Wellcome Trust to collect and share the stories and memories of NHS staff and patients.

What’s more, if you want to find out how to get involved with the NHS birthday celebrations, there are loads of helpful hints on this dedicated website, including giving blood, volunteering or simply taking care of your own health.

The perfect way to celebrate a happy and healthy birthday for our beloved NHS!