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Birth of the National Health Service | The early history of the NHS

About this collection

On 5 July 1948, the National Health Service was launched with the proud expectation that it would make the UK the 'envy of the world'.

Here you can follow the early years of the NHS from radical plan through to triumphant birth and on to fully fledged but sometimes problematic service.

Through programmes, documents and images taken from the BBC's archives you can witness for yourself a time before the NHS existed, the disputes surrounding its inception and the difficulties it faced in the early years.

Birth of the National Health Service Collection

Brains Trust participant

The Brains Trust

BROADCAST 1942
9 MINUTES

Did the Brains want an NHS in 1942?

Sir William H Beveridge.

Sir William Beveridge Announcement

BROADCAST 1942
15 MINUTES

Beveridge outlines his proposals for a new welfare state.

Dr Charles Hill

State Organised Medicine

BROADCAST 1943
18 MINUTES

Two doctors debate the pros and cons of joining a National Health Service.

The Rgt Hon Baroness Edith Summerskill

Doctor Edith Summerskill

BROADCAST 1948
18 MINUTES

A Party Political Broadcast on the advantages of the new National Health Service.

The Rt Hon Clement Attlee, MP

The New Social Services and the Citizen

BROADCAST 1948
15 MINUTES

Prime Minister Clement Attlee introduces and explains the new Social Services.

Rt Hon Aneurin Bevan

Bevan, Rt Hon Minister of Health

BROADCAST 1949
2 MINUTES

One year after its introduction, the founder speaks on the Health Service.

A doctor wearing a surgical mask.

Brief Excursion

RECORDED c. 1953
20 MINUTES

'A new life has begun; a new person has joined us...'

Aidan Crawley

Viewfinder

Health Service

BROADCAST 1954
27 MINUTES

A glimpse into the life of a doctor.

Robert Reid

Special Enquiry

Health for the People

BROADCAST 1955
31 MINUTES

'Special Enquiry' looks at the impact of the NHS in Salford.

The British Medical Association logo

NHS: Proposal of Doctors to Withdraw

RECORDED c. 1957
4 MINUTES

GPs threaten to withdraw from the NHS.

Medical staff prepare for surgery.

On Call to a Nation

BROADCAST 1958
72 MINUTES

Ten years after it started, is the NHS looking healthy?

Ambulance worker standing next to an ambulance, circa 1960s.

Panorama

Ambulances

BROADCAST 1963
10 MINUTES

The ambulance services are under fire.

A GP wearing a white coat.

Enquiry

Portrait of a GP

BROADCAST 1965
20 MINUTES

Is the health service on the brink of collapse?

A nurse in the 1960s.

Panorama

Health Service

BROADCAST 1967
12 MINUTES

Doctors discuss problems in the NHS as it approaches its 20th birthday.

James Burke

Something for Nothing: A Birthday Celebration

BROADCAST 1968
49 MINUTES

James Burke asks how long the NHS can continue without breaking down completely.

Michael Barratt

Parents and Children

What do you know about... the National Health Service?

BROADCAST 1973
25 MINUTES

Mums and dads pit their wits against each other to answer NHS-based questions.

Robin Day

Talk-in To Day

BROADCAST 1973
41 MINUTES

Robin Day hosts a studio debate on the state of the NHS.

A hand holding a pen.

Stuffing Their Mouths with Gold

BROADCAST 1982
44 MINUTES

A history of the NHS as recalled by some who were there at the beginning.

A nurse in 1936 pouring medicine.

How We Worked Then

Medicine

BROADCAST 1991
14 MINUTES

Doctors, patients and chemists share their memories of medical treatment before the NHS.

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