Welsh National Health Service: Happy Birthday!

By Niamh Mannion

2018 marks the 70th birthday of one of the UK and Wales’s most treasured institutions: the NHS. The National Health Service, which turned 70 on the 5th July this year, was founded by Welshman Aneurin Bevan. Here at WCIA, we want to look back at the legacy of Aneurin Bevan and appreciate the incredible work done by the doctors and nurses, past and present in the Welsh NHS. Everyone at WCIA wishes the NHS a very happy birthday!

The Mastermind: Anuerin Bevan

Bevan was born in Tredegar, South Wales, the son of a coalminer. As a teenager Aneurin exhibited an early aptitude for politics, becoming a trade union activist. In 1919 until 1921, he attended a trade union supported college in London – The Central Labour College, where he read economics, politics and history.

After returning home to Wales, he faced a spell of unemployment until 1926 when he was employed as a paid union official. In 1928, Bevans fortunes continued to improve, winning a seat on Monmouthshire County Council. His rise continued when he was picked to represent and won as the Labour Party candidate for Ebbw Vale in the 1929 general election. As a sitting MP, Bevan was highly critical of Winston Churchill.

Following the conclusion of WW2, Bevan believed peacetime would allow the UK a fresh start and opportunity to create “a new society”. In 1945, the Labour party won the general election with a landslide victory. The new governments victory, was based upon a programme of expansive social reforms known as the ‘welfare state’. Bevan was named Minister for Health by Prime Minister Clement Attlee. At the heart of the new ‘welfare state’ was the National Health Service. The NHS was launched by Aneurin Bevan on the 5th July 1948. Bevan centred the three core principals of the NHS to be “that it meets the needs of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery, and that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay”. He further remarked “no society can call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means”.

In 1951, Bevan was appointed Minister of Labour. However, no sooner had he been appointed than he resigned, in protest to Hugh Gaskells introduction of prescription charges for dental care and glasses. Bevan professional success was never to return to such legendary highs. He was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour party in 1959, however he died the following year, at the aged of 62. Bevan was a true visionary. Not only did he recognise the inequality and poverty experience by so many – he did something about it. His legacy of the National Health Service is truly revolutionary.

Wales and the NHS: A Special Connection

The National Health Service welcomed its first baby at Glanamman Cottage Hospital in West Wales at one minute past midnight on the 5th July 1948. The baby in question, named Aneira (the female form of Aneurin) after founder of the NHS Aneurin Bevan. Since 1948, the NHS in Wales has gone onto deliver over 2,500,000 babies.

aneurin bevan

The NHS currently provides healthcare to the three million residents of Wales. In a year, the NHS in Wales will prescribe over 80,000,000 prescriptions and carry out over 17,000,000 GP appointments. The Welsh NHS will carry out 4,375 hip replacement operations per year, 547,090 dental fillings per year and 459,225 ambulance call outs per year. NHS Wales also deals with 1,003,710 A&E attendances every year, which works out to around 2,750 daily A&E attendances.

The values of the NHS at its foundation in 1948, still underpin the NHS in Wales today. However, the un-quantifiable changes in medical technology, increased expectations and a growing elderly population has proved challenging along with the limited budget of health care.

NHS: WCIA says thank you!

As a WCIA volunteer, I would like to extended the warmest birthday wishes to the NHS! We’d also love to thank the NHS for their phenomenal care of all their patients over the last seventy years.

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