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NHS70: Celebrating 70 years of the NHS in July 2018

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 6 years ago
  • Author:by Carly Harrison

The National Health Service is turning 70 on 5 July 2018. This is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the achievements of one of the nation’s most loved institutions, to appreciate the vital role the service plays in our lives, and to recognise and thank the extraordinary NHS staff – the everyday heroes – who are there to guide, support and care for us, day in, day out.”

The last 70 years of the NHS have transformed the health and well-being of the nation whilst also becoming the envy of the world.

Brief History of the NHS

1948 Launch of the NHS
On 5th July 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) was launched by the then Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan, at Park Hospital in Manchester. This hospital is still in use and known today as Trafford General Hospital. Aneurin had a hugely ambitious plan to bring good healthcare to all. For the very first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one organisation, The NHS, to provide services that are free for all at the point of delivery
1952 – Charges of one shilling come into effect for prescriptions.
Prescription charges of one shilling (5p) are introduced however the charges were abolished in 1965 and prescriptions remain free until June 1968.

1953 – DNA Structure Revealed
On April 25, James D Watson and Francis Crick (Cambridge University scientists) describe the structure of a chemical called deoxyribonucleic acid in Nature magazine (DNA). Knowing the structure of DNA allowed the study of diseases caused by defective genes. Other notable people who helped discover the DNA structure included Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins

1954 – Smoking and Cancer Link Established
In the 1940s, the British scientist Sir Richard Doll begins research into lung cancer after incidences of the disease rise alarmingly. He studies lung cancer patients in 20 London hospitals and expects to reveal that the cause was fumes from coal fires, car fumes or tarmac.
His findings surprise him, and he publishes a study in the British Medical Journal, co-written with Sir Austin Bradford Hill, warning that smokers are far more likely than non-smokers to die of lung cancer.

1958 – Polio and Diphtheria Vaccination Programme Launched

1959 – Mental Health Act
The Mental Health Act was built on the recommendations of the Percy Commission (1954) and repealed the Lunacy and Mental Treatment Acts (1890-1930) and the Mental Deficiency Acts (1913-1938). It made new provision for the treatment and care of people with mental health problems.
For the first time, it was established that community care should be prioritised and that patients with mental ill health should not be considered any different from other types of sick people.

1960s – First Heart and Lung Transplant
1960s is the decade marking the UK's first major heart and liver transplants. It's also the era of the contraceptive pill, the Abortion Act and the birth of Britain's first sextuplets after fertility treatment.

1970s – First IVF Baby Born and CT Scans Introduced
The world's first baby is born as a result of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and CT scans revolutionise the way doctors examine the body.

1980s – First Breast Screening Programme Introduced
AIDS awareness receives a major push with the first TV advert being aired in the UK. It's also the decade the first breast screening programme is introduced with the hope of reducing breast cancer deaths in women over 50.

1990s – NHS Organ Donor Register Launched
In the 1990s the first NHS trusts emerge and the NHS organ donor register is launched. We'll also see NHS Direct for the first time which, over the years, has become the largest single e-health service in the world.

The NHS in the Millennium
The new millennium sees a nationwide smoking ban, the first bowel cancer screening programme and the 60th anniversary of the National Health Service.

Present Day

The present day NHS is undergoing major changes to its core structure, including who makes decisions about NHS services, service commissioning and the way money is spent. It's also the decade of great medical breakthroughs and health innovations.

NHS statistics, Facts and Figures
Providers and Commissioners of NHS services. There are in England:
•207 clinical commissioning groups
•135 acute non-specialist trusts
•17 acute specialist trusts

•54 mental health trusts
•35 community providers
•10 ambulance trusts
•7,454 GP practices.

•NHS net expenditure has increased from £78.881 billion in 2006 to £120.512 billion in 2016/17. Planned expenditure for 2017/18 is £123.817bn and for 2018/19 is £126.269bn.

•In March 2017, across Hospital and Community Healthcare Services, the NHS employed: 106,430 Doctors; 285,893 Nurses and Health Visitors; 21,597 Midwives; 132,673 Scientific, Therapeutic and Technical Staff; 19,772 Ambulance Staff; 21,139 Managers; and 9,974 Senior Managers.

•The NHS deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours
•Life expectancy for English men in 2013-15: 79.4 years.53

•Life expectancy for English women in 2013-15: 83.1 year
•The UK population is expected to continue ageing, with the average age rising from 40.0 in 2014 to 42.9 by 2039.

As the NHS reaches and celebrates its milestone 70th birthday, NHS England are reflecting on the progress they have made in priority areas: progress on how care is delivered and how it will continue to improve in the future.

The NHS ‘Spotlight Series’ will showcase one area each month; looking at progress, patient and clinician experiences; and cast an eye to the future of the NHS.

For more information on the “Spotlight Series” visit

To join the conversation email or hashtag #NHS70 on Social Media

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