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The formation of the National Health Service

The idea of national co-ordination of the health services and the supply of free medical care to all gained popular and political support during the 1930s and 1940s, and was included in the recommendations of the 1942 Beveridge Report. In 1944 the Ministry of Health (under the war-time coalition government) published a White Paper on a National Health Service, which put forward detailed proposals for a system of free universal healthcare funded by central taxation. In 1945 the Labour Party won a landslide general election and the new Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, was given the task of creating a workable system and manoeuvring all the various vested interests into agreement. His National Health Service Act of 1946 established a structure for the NHS in England and Wales, and, unlike the earlier White Paper, proposed that the health service should be managed by central government rather than local authorities. Strong disagreement over the proposed service, particularly between the government and the British Medical Association (representing doctors), almost threatened to derail the implementation of the Act, but the new National Health Service was launched as planned in July 1948.

Our digital collection contains various documents which relate to the debate around the formation of the National Health Service. A selection of these are linked to below.

The 1944 White Paper:

The 1946 National Health Service Act:

The new National Health Service: