Bevan wanted to ensure all the people of Britain could receive the best medical care available for free
Prior to this time health care in the UK was pretty much an expensive luxury, available to those able to pay the fees or with insurance premiums.
Workers on lower pay could access a doctor for free, but the insurance premiums rarely provided cover for their wives or children.
At that time hospitals also charged for services, and to receive treatment patients had to pay the fee upfront, which was reimbursed to poor people afterwards.
In the years between the two world wars, many went without resulting in thousands of British citizens dying of infectious diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and polio.
Five percent of children under the age of one were dying as parents couldn’t get the necessary treatment to save them.
Whilst the Prime Minister Winston Churchill was plotting victory in the Second World War, the coalition Government still had domestic issues to address including social reform.
Under a Labour Government led by Clement Atlee following a landslide victory in the 1945 general election, the NHS was implemented to improve the health of the nation
It was a period of more state control as the Government nationalized major industries and public utilities, as well as implementing a new National Health Service.
Not everyone was in favour of a new NHS when the Health Bill was voted for in Parliament in 1946, including the opposition Conservative Party. The British Medical Association was also opposed to nationalising both the charity hospitals and the former poor law hospitals, which had been run by local authorities.
BMA members feared Bevan would remove doctors’ professional independence, and their right to buy or sell general practices.
Bevan worked tirelessly to win his opponents round, and eventually got the consultants on board by allowing them to continue their private practices alongside working in the health service.
Doctors soon appreciated the fact that by refusing to treat health service patients their income would be drastically reduced.
By the time the NHS was set in motion 90 percent of the doctors were on board, as Bevan promised legislation that ensured they would not become salaried civil servants, although he still managed to take from them the right to buy and sell practices.
The new service naturally brought about a huge surge of demand for medical care from the many people previously unable to afford treatment.
The NHS years have seen many medical advances including the invention of a vaccine for polio and the birth control pill in the 1950s, to laser and keyhole surgery techniques developed since the 1980s.
The results are plain to see that the NHS has brought about a marked improvement in British healthcare, as men and women are living on average 10 years longer than they did in 1948.
Many believe that the creation of the NHS was one of Britain’s greatest reforms of the 20th century.