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The NHS celebrates another year of operation tomorrow, as the UK needs it more than ever. While the organisation is still tackling hundreds of new COVID-19 cases per day, it has likely decreased its impact significantly. Tomorrow (Sunday, July 5), people will appreciate both the NHS’ vital continued presence and its wealth of historical achievements.
How old is the NHS?
The NHS celebrates its 72nd birthday this year across the UK.
While everyone is familiar with the organisation as a whole, however, they may not know devolved governments handle their function.
As such, the dates each country in the UK got full control over its version of the NHS varies.
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When was the NHS founded?
Dr Somerville Hastings, President of the Socialist Medical Association, proposed adopting a State Health Service to the 1934 Labour Party conference.
Then, the party accepted Dr Hastings’ resolution, and it later received cross-party backing.
When Clement Attlee’s Labour Party won the election in 1945, he appointed Aneurin Bevan to his cabinet as health minister, who then delivered the project which would eventually become the NHS.
The National Health Service was proposed for legislation in England and Wales in 1946, with Scotland and Northern Ireland following in 1947.
NHS Wales split from NHS England in 1969 and came to the Welsh Assembly in 1999.
In the same year, the Scottish Parliament took control of NHS Scotland.
The NHS presence in Northern Ireland took the form of Health and Social Care in 1948.
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Since its establishment, the NHS has attracted huge praise and is considered one of the UK’s greatest achievements.
However, successive governments have failed to give it the funding it requires, resulting in long waiting times and still low cancer survival rates compared to other European countries.
Some health providers state this is partly due to a change in scope, as the NHS has broadened its horizons since the 1940s.
Robert Freeman, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, told the Guardian in 2018 the new focus is on prolonging life “almost irrespective of quality”.
He said: “When the NHS was founded it was intended to keep the workforce healthy, reduce premature death and allow a dignified end for everyone.
“There has been significant mission creep since and the NHS now has a much broader scope with a focus on prolonging life almost irrespective of quality.”
While tomorrow will celebrate the many achievements of the service, thousands of people won’t be around to rejoice.
More than 44,000 people have died of COVID-19, amongst them more than 300 NHS workers.
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