From its birth in 1948, the NHS believed that good healthcare should be available to all, free at the point of delivery. The intention being that this will be financed entirely by taxing people according to their means. This principal remains at the heart of the world’s largest, most efficient, comprehensive publicly funded health service that we know today.

Here at max20 we are looking back at 70 pivotal moments in the NHS on the week of its 70th Birthday.

1. July 5 1948 – The NHS is born

Aneurin Bevan, the health secretary, launched the NHS at Park Hospital in Manchester (today known as Trafford General Hospital). 

2.  1953 – DNA structure revealed

April 25, James D Watson and Francis Crick, two Cambridge University scientists, describe the structure of a chemical called deoxyribonucleic acid in ‘Nature’ magazine. Knowing the structure of DNA allows the study of disease caused by defective genes.

3.  1954 – Smoking and Cancer Link Established

British scientist Sir Richard Doll begins his research in the 1940’s after incidences of lung cancer rise alarmingly. The findings surprise him, and he publishes a study in the British Medical Journal co-written with Sir Austin Bradford Hill. Doll gives up smoking two-thirds of the way through his study and lives to be an incredible 92. 

4.  1954 – Daily Hospital Visits for Children Introduced

Until 1954, children in hospitals were often only allowed to see their parents for an hour on Saturdays and Sundays. Paediatricians Sir James Spence in Newcastle and Alan Moncriff at Great Ormond Street took considerable steps to change this, and as a result daily visiting is introduced gradually.

5.  1954 – 1957 The Percy Commission

In 1954 Winston Churchill's government set up a commission to review the existing legislative framework governing the detention and care of people with mental illness. The Percy Commission reported back in 1957, “The law should be altered so that whenever possible suitable care may be provided for mentally disordered patients with no more restriction of liberty or legal formality than is applied to people who need care because of other types of illness, disability or social difficulty."

6.  1958 – Polio and Diphtheria Vaccinations Programme launched

One of the primary aims of the NHS is to promote good health, not just to treat illness. Before this programme was introduced cases of polio could climb as high as 8,000 in epidemic years, with cases of diphtheria as high as 70,000, leading to 5,000 deaths. This programme ensures that everyone under the age of 15 is vaccinated and it leads to an immediate and dramatic reduction in cases of both diseases.

Visit the NHS 70 website to learn more and find out how you can get involved

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