Happy Birthday to the wonderful NHS which is 69 years young today. However it is not in rude good health after seven years of Tory underfunding, wages of frontline workers being cut for six years, privatisation of key components and the disastrous effect of Brexit.
For 69 years we have loved, cherished and entirely benefited from our NHS – let’s never let it go. Since Labour founded our NHS on 5 July 1948, its incredible staff have delivered more than 47 million babies. the NHS promised cradle to grave care, free for everyone, rich or poor. Until then Brits had to rely on insurance policies to pay for their health care as most could not earn enough to pay medical bills. The Labour Government had promised a raft of welfare measures – including the NHS – when it was elected in 1945.
Health Minister Aneurin Bevan was put in charge of introducing the new service, which was based on need, not ability to pay. On 5 July 1948, at the Park Hospital (now known as Trafford General Hospital) in Manchester, Bevan unveiled the National Health Service and stated, “We now have the moral leadership of the world”. It is now the world’s largest publicly funded health service and has helped save millions of lives. From the first vaccination programmes in the 1950s to today’s ground-breaking developments in robotic heart surgery, the NHS has continued to provide better more cost effective care which have helped shape the NHS into what it is today. The United States by contrast spends twice as much per head on healthcare with far worst clinical outcomes overall and most personal bankruptcies are caused by healthcare debt.
— OurNHS (@OurNHS_oD) July 4, 2016
A national health service was one of the fundamental assumptions in the Beveridge Report which Arthur Greenwood, Labour’s Deputy Leader and wartime Cabinet Minister with responsibility for post-war reconstruction had successfully pressed the cabinet to commission from economist and social reformer William Beveridge. The government accepted this assumption in February 1943, and after a White Paper in 1944 it fell to Clement Attlee’s Labour government to create the NHS as part of the “cradle to grave” welfare-state reforms in the aftermath of the Second World War. Aneurin Bevan, the newly appointed Minister of Health, was given the task of introducing the National Health Service.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) July 5, 2017
Dr A. J. Cronin’s highly controversial novel The Citadel, published in 1937, had fomented extensive dialogue about the severe inadequacies of health care. The author’s innovative ideas were not only essential to the conception of the NHS, but in fact, his best-selling novels are even said to have greatly contributed to the Labour Party’s victory in 1945.
The NHS was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. At its launch by the then minister of health, Aneurin Bevan, on 5 July 1948, it had at its heart three core principles:
That it meet the needs of everyone
That it be free at the point of delivery
That it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay
Today, people across the country are paying tributes to our glorious NHS and thanking staff for all they do. Many are also expressing concern that the future of the service is in danger thanks to talks to privatise it. They are repeating the words spoken by 1948 Health Minister Aneurin Bevan, who said: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”
Professor Stephen Hawking on the NHS:
"I would not be here today if it were not for the NHS"
— Dr Lauren Gavaghan (@DancingTheMind) July 5, 2017
The NHS has been a thing of pride for many Brits ever since, and the service’s birthday on Tuesday prompted many to remember the life changing impact it has had on them. Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, an A&E doctor and Sadiq Khan’s replacement as Labour MP for Tooting, also tweeted her support for the NHS. She added that she would be “standing up for our NHS in Parliament – something Jeremy Hunt has never done”.
— Frances Mair (@FrancesMair) June 26, 2017
As well as providing all manner of healthcare, the NHS is also the fifth biggest employer in the world. It remains the only UK employer in the list of the top 10 biggest employers globally, surpassed only by the US department of defence, the People’s Liberation Army of China, Walmart and McDonald’s.
But today is an unhappy birthday for the institution. Staff report that morale is at an all-time low as resources are spread thinner and thinner amid an aging population and deep cuts to the social care sector, for which the NHS now picks up the slack. The Public Accounts Committee said in May that the NHS is nationally short of 50,000 front line staff and the Government is driving through £22bn in cuts by 2020, which has pushed hospitals and A&E departments to the brink of failure.
Junior doctors have been striking over pay and unsafe contracts imposed upon them by the government and today rejected the government’s derisory contract offer. Trained nurses and midwives are protesting plans by the Conservative government to scrap the bursaries they receive while they are studying. Auxiliary nurses and cleaners dare not protest because they are largely non-unionised workers on low pay.
The irony of the NHS is that it was opposed by the medical profession and the Tory Party but due to the Labour Party’s lack of discipline in concentrating on not betraying its supporters by winning elections it has spent most of its life under the control of Tory governments. This was so in the very beginning when in 1951 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Hugh Gaitskell, proposed that there should be a one shilling (5p) prescription charge and new charges for half the cost of dentures and spectacles. Bevan resigned from the Cabinet in protest. This led to a split in the party that contributed to the electoral defeat of the Labour government in 1951. The Tory government which followed introduced them anyway illustrating the futility and stupidity of Bevan resigning “on principle.”
Each time the Conservatives have won elections the result is the same, an NHS in crisis. Now Labour badly lost an Election it should have won in 2015 and it failed to lead the country in the Referendum on EU Membership and allowed the forces of reaction and retro-nationalism to triumph with their backward agenda. Now after No Mandate May’s failure in the 2017 General Election our NHS is at the mercy of the hollow promises of ascendant Leave campaigners vying for Tory party leadership, who are ideologically wedded to a weak public sector, and an immigration policy that will jeopardise the NHS’s ability to function.
— English Heritage (@EnglishHeritage) July 5, 2017
It is time for Labour, the party which founded the NHS as a practical blow for equality and social justice, to step up to the plate as a party of government not as an incubator of outdated and irrelevant ideological clap trap protesting impotently, to tear apart the ludicrous and divided Tory Party, to convince the electorate of its credibility to lead and govern and to take back and refound a well funded NHS Free at Point of Need.
Then and only then, will our National Health Service have a 69th Birthday worth celebrating.