Aneurin Bevan and the NHS

The Beveridge Report spoke of the need for a National Health Service (NHS). This would provide a range of free medical services including doctor services, dental care, hospital services and maternity services.

The NHS would be paid for through a combination of National Insurance contributions and taxation. Aneurin Bevan introduced this reform.

Aneurin Bevan smiles and shakes the hand of a female patient in a hospital bed.
Aneurin Bevan visits a new hospital, 1948

Was the NHS initially a success or failure?


  • It was popular with those who were keen to avoid medical bills.
  • Rates of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis declined.
  • Between 1931 and 1961, life expectancy for both men and women had increased by 10 years.


  • It did not have the support of all doctors and many wished to remain in private medical practices. The BMA initially voted against the NHS, and Bevan had to alter the act to allow them to continue working privately in order to gain their support.
  • There was a large cost – in its first year the NHS cost more than £500 million. It cost £248 million to run which was £140 million more than expected. The £2 million allocated for free NHS spectacles in the first year was spent within weeks, as more than 5 million pairs were issued in the first year.
  • In 1951, the Labour government had to introduce some dental charges due to the costs.