5 July 2018 – Today is the 70th anniversary of the “Appointed Day” when the National Health Service Act 1946 and the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1947 were brought into force on 5 July 1948.
Creating the free universal National Health Service amid austerity and the aftermath of the second world war was an astonishing achievement and the R&RA is proud to be also celebrating its own link with it. As you can read on another page, our own founder Dorothy White OBE had been one of the team in Aneurin Bevan’s Ministry of Health that worked to set up the NHS. Since then the R&RA has always continued to support the public service ethos that is its great strength and makes it unique.
70 years on, the simplicity, vision and no-holds-barred ambition of the project are still enough to make you catch your breath – see the uncompromising words in the very first section of the 1946 Act in the picture: “It shall be the duty of the Minister of Health…. The services so provided shall be free of charge…”
How to recapture such clarity of vision today, and apply it to the present crisis in providing proper care for older people? The framers of Bevan’s legislation would surely never have seen this as something separate from the comprehensive system of public health they plainly envisaged they were laying down for the future. The 1946 Act said nothing about leaving care for older people out of account – it even provided for domestic help via local health authorities for the “aged” among others – and one can only imagine the words Bevan would have reserved for anyone suggesting free public care for cancer sufferers but none for those equally helpless with dementia.
In the words of the outgoing head of the CQC recently,
“The creation of the NHS by Attlee and Bevan in 1948 took remarkable political courage and I think there will need to be remarkable political courage to [put] adult social care [on a stable footing]. What we now need is a long-term funding settlement for social care which sits alongside the long-term funding settlement for the NHS.”
If an Attlee or a Bevan is too much to hope for, may we at least have a grown-up put in charge of driving through a new Social Care Service Act so that another Appointed Day becomes a reality instead of an impossible dream – as it at present seems, with even the day for coming up with a green paper now dismally pushed back?