Why the NHS needs to remain a National Health Service in the 21st Century

1.A Free Health Service
2.A Communal Responsibility
3.State Funding of the NHS
4.The NHS is not a Welfare State
5.Triumphant Collective Action
6.The Cautious Medical Profession
7.Pay Beds in the NHS
8.The Equipment of a Civilized Society


Triumphant Collective Action

A free Health Service is a triumphant example of the superiority of collective action and public initiative applied to a segment of society where commercial principles are seen at their worst.

A striking illustration of this was provided by our efforts to take proper care of the deaf.

It had always seemed to me that this affliction had received too little attention. Deafness is a grievous handicap, worse some say even than blindness, though here we must speak with diffidence, because no one who has not suffered both can really judge. But this at least is agreed: deafness causes much personal suffering and industrial loss. The mechanical aids to deafness were often deficient, and always too expensive for all but a tiny section of those in need.

The way that seemed to offer the best chance of success was to bring the hearing specialist and the aural technicians into conference with each other, to see if a satisfactory aid could be devised, which could then be put into mass production and distributed through the hospitals. The effort met with outstanding success.

By September 1951, one hundred and fifty-two thousand aids had been distributed and the users are enthusiastic about them. They cost approximately one tenth of those on sale commercially. There is no reason why, after the home demand has been met, they should not prove the basis of a thriving export trade.

By bulk ordering of common essentials and cutting out unnecessary retail profit margins, as in the instance given, substantial economies can be made.

It is significant that few Conservatives mention this side of the Health Service. They are silent where economies could be made , at the expense of profits. The possibilities of bulk ordering of whole ranges of hospital equipment and necessities, such as blankets and linen, were realized early in the development of the scheme.

In order to extend the advantages of this over a wider field of public expenditure the Supply Department of the Ministry of Health was made responsible for the medical needs of the armed forces. When all these are fully integrated, the result should make a significant impact on the private sector of the industries affected. The manufacturers will be afforded a reliable estimate of the requirements of the public authorities and can adjust their production flows accordingly, while improved specifications should improve quality and reduce cost.

(Excerpts from Bevan, A. 1952. “A Free Health Service”. In “In Place of Fear”: 77-97)

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Page Updated: 27 May, 2017

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