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Seventy years ago (July 5, 1948), Aneurin Bevan, the Secretary of State for Health, officially opened the first NHS hospital. Park Hospital - now known as Trafford General Hospital, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust - was originally opened to patients on December 17, 1928. It was used by the armed forces from September 1939 - initially as a British military hospital before it was transferred to the US Army in 1943.


The vision for a national health service that was available to everyone and free to use was an extraordinary one and, as Gordon Brown's words demonstrate, that it has stood the test of time is even more extraordinary.


Speaking at the opening of Confed18, NHS Confederation Chair, Stephen Dorrell said: "After nearly six years of war and facing profound economic and political challenges both at home and abroad, it represented a commitment that post-war Britain would find the resources to invest in a completely new and untested approach to health policy. 


"Bevan was committed to free access to care, but his vision went well beyond that. He understood that the purpose of universal healthcare is to secure what we now describe as healthy outcomes for citizens. 


"He put it this way in his book 'In Place of Fear': “Preventable pain is a blot on any society. Much sickness and often permanent disability arise from failure to take early action, and this in its turn is due to high costs and fear of the effects of heavy bills on the family…..


“Society becomes more wholesome, more serene, and spiritually healthier if it knows that its citizens have at the back of their consciousness the knowledge that not only they themselves, but all their fellows, have access to the best that medical skill can provide”. 


"Bevan described these ideas as socialism in action – but I think that understates the extent to which he won support for the principle of universal healthcare that extends well beyond those who would describe themselves as socialists."


Today, NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens has sent a message of “heartfelt thanks” to all staff, paying tribute to the achievements of the 1.5 million doctors, nurses, ambulance staff, therapists, porters, caterers and countless others who, along with volunteers and those working behind the scenes, make up the biggest care team in the world.


“It’s a time for celebration, looking back over seven decades when we’re all living a lot longer and healthier – more than 10 years extra. We’ve seen amazing medical advances, whether it’s organ transplants or new cures for cancer or vaccines. But the reason why the health services does so well is frankly due to the brilliance of the staff.”


Celebrations to be held around the country today include thousands of Big7Tea events, services at Westminster Abbey and York Minster and scores of buildings, including the Eden Project in Cornwall, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye, will be lit in the NHS’s trademark blue.



From the archives

HEFMA has delved into the archives to compile a feature for the July/August issue of Pulse. One interesting item that we found was a snippet from The Municipal Journal, April 15, 1949, which shows that the NHS has been under financial pressure since almost the very beginning:



"Sheffield Regional Hospital Board have told the Ministry of Health that it is impossible to meet Mr. Bevan's request for reduced expenditure without closing beds. When the regional hospital board submitted their 1949-50 estimate the finance committee had already made a net reduction of £357,584 on management committee estimates."


Even at this young age, this NHS hospital was already warning it would have to close beds when more were needed and that it would have to dismiss some staff when already staffing levels are too few for the number of beds in occupation. 


The hospital also issued a warning about maintenance, saying: "... it was impossible to defer indefinitely repairs, painting and renewals which had already been put off too long."


Sound familiar?



See the July/August issue of Pulse for more from the archives and if your Trust has any interesting snippets you may like to share with us please do get in touch: [email protected]