By Andrew Glass for Politico. Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan said the National Health Service would be governed by three core principles: that it meets everyone’s needs; that it be free at the point of delivery; and that it be based on clinical needs and not on the ability to pay. | AP Photo
NOTE: It is interesting that Politico, a corporate media outlet, would publish a relatively positive article about the British National Health Service, a socialized healthcare system. The article cites some financial problems. It should be said that the NHS has been a victim of imposed austerity in the UK for years. Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn ran on a platform that includes restoring the NHS. – Margaret Flowers
Britain establishes national public health system, July 5, 1948
On this day in 1948, the United Kingdom put into practice the National Health Service, a single-payer, government-run program that continues to operate in much the same fashion to this day.
Its genesis sprang from the Labour Party’s victory at the polls in 1945. When Clement Attlee succeeded Winston Churchill as prime minister, he named Aneurin Bevan as minister of health. Bevan then embarked upon what Charles Webster, the official historian of the NHS, called an “audacious campaign” to spearhead the proposed new medical service.
At its launch on July 5, 1948, Bevan said it would be governed by three core principles: First, that it met everyone’s needs; second, that it be free at the point of delivery; and, finally, that it would be based on clinical needs and not on the ability to pay.
Three years after its founding, Bevan resigned from the government in opposition to the introduction of charges for dentures and glasses. The next year, with Churchill’s Conservative Party back in power, the government retained the NHS’ basic structure while imposing charges on prescription drugs.
Each of the United Kingdom’s four health service systems operates independently and is politically accountable to the relevant government entities in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Taken together, the four services in 2015-16 employed around 1.6 million people with a combined budget of £136.7 billion ($178 billion).
People with the right to medical care in the nations of the European Economic Area have also been entitled to free treatment by using their European health insurance cards — though that policy will likely change after Brexit. For non-Europeans, including Americans, the provision of free treatment, formerly interpreted liberally, has been increasingly restricted, with hospital charges for overseas visitors introduced in 2015. Non-British patients who otherwise do not qualify for free treatment are asked to pay in advance or to sign a written undertaking to pay, except for emergency treatment.
The four health systems are 98.8 percent funded from general taxes and mandatory national insurance levies, plus small amounts from patient charges for some special services. About 10 percent of the overall gross domestic product goes to underwrite British health needs, most of which is spent in the public sector.
Some 60 percent of the NHS budget is used to pay its staff. A further 20 percent pays for drugs and other supplies, with the remaining 20 percent divided among buildings, training costs, medical equipment, catering and cleaning. Nearly 80 percent of the total budget is distributed by local trusts in line with the perceived health priorities in their respective areas.
Unions representing doctors, dentists, nurses and other health professionals have repeatedly called on the government to end a systemwide cap on health service pay increases, amounting to 1 percent a year, claiming that the cap, which has been in force since 2011, fails to adequately reflect inflation and is damaging patient care.