The National Health Service

NHS history has been in the public eye of late and as we are approaching its seventieth anniversary, it will get more airtime.

To understand NHS history, you need to understand the politics of the time of its birth.

The NHS has now been in existence for nearly 70 years, it came into being officially on July 5th, 1948, it had been put to the test before its launch, from the years 1939 - 1945 during the second world war years.

Bevan has been credited for its formation and rightly so, action is better than talk. But in all honesty, which ever political party came to power, would have likely brought it in at some stage, although not as quickly and not completely free.

To know the National Health Service fully, you have to understand the conditions that brought about its formation. The peace of mind we have knowing that the NHS will be there if anything was to happen to our loved ones or ourselves is taken for granted. We believe it is our fundamental right to receive free treatment, this was not always the case. This is a brief outline of the history of the health service.

The first hospital in Britain were given to us by the Romans in the form of Valetudinarians.

In the 14th century St Bartholomew's was founded. St Barts as it was known was found by a monk, Rahere who was at one time, court jester to Henry 1 and was one of the two great hospitals.

St Thomas's is the other great London hospital that was founded in the 10th century originally it was the sick house that belonged to the church of St Mary Overie and was founded during the reign of William 11 (Rufus) and as he died in 1100, it makes it the first. It was renamed St Thomas’ in 1173, after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a Becket, who was murdered in 1170. This hospital is in fact the oldest in London.

Initially these institutions catered for the poor and anyone who was in dire need, as time went on however the rich were the most common residents within these hospitals.

1572, an Elizabethan Act made provision for the punishment of beggars and the relief of the impotent poor. 228

The chaos that was wrought by the reformation of the British Church system, which included the Dissolution and in most cases destruction of the Monasteries, brought with it a rapid decline in moral values.

Prior to the Reformation the communities of Britain were in most cases religious, following the example set by Christ in relation to the poor and needy. It was the case that they adhered to the Bible instructions given to all Christians as quoted in the book of Matthew, Chap 25. (Quote at bottom of page)

There was a vacuum left in Elizabethan society when the monasteries and convents were closed or destroyed, the biggest loser was the poor, having nowhere to turn too. The English had firmly placed the responsibility of these people firmly on the shoulders of the Elizabethan government.


Lord Burghley was particularly concerned that Starving and homeless people were driven to desperate acts endangering society in general and Law and Order in particular.





Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'Matthew, Chap 25



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The History of Surgery and Anaesthesia was created as a free resource to educate Students or indeed anyone wishing to understand the beginings of surgery and Anaesthesia.

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