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Reflecting on the NHS @ 75

Updated: May 21

When the NHS was launched on July 5, 1948, it was described as a national health service, "free at the point of need"

Aneurin "Nye" Bevan is considered the father of the NHS. Elected to parliament at just 31, he became a key member of Clement Atlee’s post-World War II Labour party government.

His remit covered housing, local authorities, and health and Bevan acquitted himself credibly overseeing the delivery of 1 million houses and the UK’s emergence as a Welfare state with the introduction of the National Insurance Act.

The signing into law of the National Health Service Act in 1948 led to the launch of the NHS on 5 July 1948.

The history of the NHS is somewhat intertwined with the history of the Windrush generation, many of whom found low-level jobs in the NHS at a time when jobs did not come easy. But it is an interesting and fraught history.

The first baby born under the NHS was “Aneira Thomas, who… was born at one minute past midnight on 5 July 1948 in Amman Valley Hospital - the day the national health service was launched.

Since then, the NHS and its staff have delivered 52 million babies in England and Wales in 75 years.

In its 75 years of existence, the service has notched up some notable firsts:

  • Britain’s first kidney transplant in 1960

  • Europe’s first liver transplant in 1968

  • World’s first CT scan on a patient in 1971

  • World’s first test-tube baby born in 1978

  • In 1999 the meningitis C vaccine was offered nationally for the first time in the world

  • Use of robotics to treat prostate cancer since 2022

As the NHS commemorates its 75th anniversary, concerns remain around funding, access and waiting lines, and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the service amongst others.

But what is without a doubt is that the NHS has been a remarkable success story in the UK providing health services to millions and employment to almost 2 million people.


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