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Thanks to the 1911 National Insurance Act, medical care for ordinary people was well established in Britain by 1922. Government legislation in 1948 meant health care was free for everyone - paid for by taxes and national insurance contributions. For the first time complex surgery and expensive drugs were freely available to even the poorest patients, and no one had to rely on charity.

However, the completely free NHS didn’t last, and by 1952 prescription charges were introduced. This was due to the costs of maintaining the service being much higher than the government expected or were willing to pay. Nevertheless, the government continued to invest heavily in improving surgical techniques, and during the 50s and 60s, vast amounts of money were spent to make surgery safer and more successful.
This clip is from:
History, Medicine through Time
First broadcast:
27 June 2007

Classroom Ideas

The class could map out a timeline that shows the stages of healthcare development that led to the introduction of the NHS. Students should examine population statistics such as infant mortality rates and life expectancy to assess the impact of changes. Discuss where such changes can be directly attributed to a specific development and where other factors should be considered.
Students could also investigate the reasons why the government stopped offering a completely free NHS service and debate issues the NHS faces today.