Earlier this year, the National Health Service, commonly known as the NHS, reached its platinum milestone, celebrating its 70th birthday.
The National Health Service is the organization run by the British government to supply free and easy healthcare to all citizens of the United Kingdom. The healthcare has been a vital value of the U.K. within the 70 years of being created, supplying free and quick care to all, regardless of class, age, gender, religion or race.
On July 5th 1948, the then Labour Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan, launched the NHS at Park Hospital in Manchester, now known as Trafford General Hospital. This allowed not only doctors and nurses but also dentists, pharmacists and opticians to unite under one, allowing the residents of U.K. to receive needed healthcare without the worry of money or prejudice. The principals were clear that the health service will be available to all and financed from taxation, which means that people only pay into it what they can afford according to their income.
Within the next decade, the NHS introduced prescription charges of one shilling and 1 pound for ordinary dental work. Although prescription costs were demolished in 1965, they were reintroduced in 1968 due to lack of funds. The DNA structure was revealed in 1953, the link between smoking and cancer in 1954 along with the Percy Commission being introduced to review the current legislation regarding mental health. The Percy Commission’s recommendation was where possible, people with mental health problems should be treated in the community and not in large psychiatric institutions along with the barriers between the wider health system and mental health treatment should be broken down with the latter absorbed into the NHS. In 1958, polio and diphtheria vaccinations were launched whilst in 1959, the Mental Health Act was built on the recommendations of the Percy Commission which made way for a new provision for treatment and care of people with mental health problems.
Within the 1960s, the first U.K. kidney transplant took place, the contraceptive pill was made widely available and the first full hip replacement was carried out. In 1967/1968, the Abortion Act is introduced which allows the legal termination of up to 28 weeks. In the 90s, this is shortened to 24 weeks. In 1969, the first heart transplant took place whilst the first British woman gives birth to sextuplets after fertility treatment.
In the 70s, the CT scans revolutionizes the way doctors examine the human body whilst endorphins were discovered. In 1978, the first child is born as a result of in vitro fertilisation, now commonly known as IVF. Louise Brown was born on July 25, 1978 after her parents failed to conceive without treatment due to her mother’s blocked fallopian tubes. In 1979, the first successful bone marrow transplant on a child took place at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London.
In 1980, not only was the MRI scan introduced but also keyhole surgery, used for the first time to remove a gallbladder. In 1985, Britain’s youngest patient received a liver transplant aged just two. In 1986, the first AIDS health campaign was launched after a number of high profile deaths. The first heart, lung and liver transplant was successful in 1987, giving the patient a further 10 years of life following the operation. Breast screening was introduced in 1988, a project used to reduce breast cancer deaths in women over the age of 50. With improved drug therapies and screenings, the number of breast cancer deaths is predicted to be reduced by more than 20%.
Within the 90s, the NHS Community Care Act was launched allowing health authorities to manage their own budgets. In 1991, the first NHS trusts were established. The Organ Donor Register was step up in 1994, allowing residents of the U.K. to sign up if they wished to donate their organs on their passing. In ’98, NHS Direct was launched, an alternative to regular GP services. The service closed in 2014 but was instead transferred to NHS 111, a non-emergency number for people to contact their local healthcare. In 1999, the National Service Framework for Mental Health was created with aims to ensure higher levels of competence and good practice among professionals by fighting discrimination, making it easier for anyone with mental health problems to access services and creating a range of services to prevent or anticipate crises.
In the new millennium, the NHS walk-in centres were launched as a convenient way to access a range of services. In 2002, the Primacy Care Trusts were launched, the first successful gene therapy was carried out and cured an 18-month old child of severe combined immunodeficiency. Accident and Emergency departments were also given a target that no patient should spend more than 4 hours from arrival to discharge following the NHS Plan. In 2004, NHS bowel cancer screening program was launched, which was the first to include men as well as women. The vaccination of babies against pneumococcal meningitis began to ensure children up to two years of age, most at risk of the inflection, were offered the vaccine. In ’07, the NHS Choices website was launched by the Department of Health, with hopes to help people make positive choices about their health and in discovering services across the country. The smoking ban was also introduced, becoming illegal to smoke in restaurants, pubs and other public places in England with the number of people having heart attacks falling after the ban. Also in 2007, the introduction of a robotic arm leads to developments within heart operations, used to treat patients for fast or irregular heartbeats. In 2008, the HPV vaccination program was launched to vaccinate teenage girls and prevent cervical cancer. In the last year of the decade, the Change4Life campaign was launched to prevent people becoming overweight by encouraging residents to eat more healthily and exercise more. The same-sex accommodation program was launched, eliminating all remaining mixed-sex hospital accommodation, aimed to improve patient privacy and dignity. In 2009, the Design for Patient Dignity was launched, making the hospital experience better by helping patients feel less vulnerable and more dignified. The Stroke Act F.A.S.T campaign was launched, allowing residents to recognize the signs of stroke and importance of acting fast – Face, Arm, Speech and Time. NHS health checks were brought forward, allowing adults between the ages of 40 to 74 to get a clearer picture of their health.
Within the 2010s, the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was established and took effect in 2012. The act brought in wide-ranging reforms since it was founded. In 2012, the London Olympic Games opening ceremony payed tribute to the NHS and its belief and vision of free healthcare. The first person in the U.K. received a hand transplant in December, 2012, involving an amputation before transplanting a donor hand during the same procedure. In 2014, My NHS was launched to give patients access to further health data. In 2016, One You was launched to address preventable disease in adults. Finally, in 2017, the NHS 111 Online pilots were launched in four locations across the country to enable people to use their smartphone, laptop or tablet to access the same healthcare services and advice offered by the telephone service.
Since its introduction 70 years ago, the NHS has only grown bigger and better, however the services still have its struggles. Although the National Health Services has had wide development in technology, advances in vaccines and access to a variety of services, there is still a variety of issues that haunt the healthcare giver. One of the main problems is the aging population. Due to the development of curing many diseases that would have killed people decades ago, people are living longer and able to live with more long-term illnesses including diabetes. Although this is a positive, this is putting more strain on the National Health Service due to the on-going treatment and specialist care alongside lack of care-home funds required to look after the more elderly patients. Lifestyle factors is another challenge facing the NHS due to how society lives within the 21st century. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, smoking, a poor diet and lack of exercise contributes massively towards becoming unwell and needing to rely on the free healthcare system. Additionally, within the past few years, there has been a huge change in public expectations. Initially, tackling diseases was the main aim and job of the NHS however they know continue their services onto supporting mental health and social care, contraception, antenatal and maternity services, vaccination programs and fast processing of medication and appointments. Furthermore, A&Es are being stretched following the increasing number of people visiting the department. Although some visits cannot be helped, many patients are visiting due to their inability to get a GP appointment or lack of information regarding their issue. Medical staff have found it increasingly harder as each year goes by, especially within the winter months. Lastly, with the National Health Service funded on taxation, the rising costs are a huge difficulty to continue the free and easily accessible healthcare. Due to the current financial crisis, rising costs of services, supplies and latest technology breakthroughs along with the amount of patients, the NHS is predicted to become unsustainable with huge financial pressures and debts by 2020 if changes are not made.
Although NHS is going through many strains and challenges, there are more pros than cons. In countries across the globe, citizens struggle to receive required healthcare due to the large financial burden, but within the UK, the worry of funds for an ill individual is not to be worried. This method of using taxation to fund medical treatments and services without discrimination and prejudice should be adapted across the globe to give all the chance to recover and gain the help and support needed. Happy 70th Birthday NHS!