Britain’s National Health Service celebrates its sixtieth birthday on 5 July this year. Serving over one and a half million patients and their families every day, the NHS is the biggest service of its kind in the world. It is universally regarded as a national treasure – the most remarkable achievement of post war Britain.
Yet, surprisingly, the National Health Service very nearly did not happen at all. In the months leading to its launch it was bitterly opposed – by the Tory Party and the national press. But its most vicious and vocal opponents were the very people its existence depended on – surgeons, nurses, dentists, and Britain’s 20,000 doctors. To get the NHS at all required the persistence and determination of one man – Nye Bevan, Labour’s Minister for Health.