Icons of England
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1040 of 1160 nominations



Is this an icon?



The National Health Service (NHS) was born on July 5, 1948. It was the brainchild of Aneurin Bevan, Minister for Health in the pioneering Labour government which swept into power after the second world war. The NHS was one of the first initiatives of its kind in the world, providing a government-run, comprehensive health service for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Patricia Hewitt (Secretary of State for Health) said in 2005: “Its founding principles…reflect the best British characteristics of fairness, decency and respect.” However, the glorious new service quickly ran into trouble. For example, at the start, £2 million was earmarked for free spectacles, money that was designed to last until the next budget, nine months later. It disappeared in just six weeks. Spiralling running costs, the huge difficulties of coordinating so many different services and the fact that by doing its job properly the NHS creates more patients for itself, frequently put the service under intolerable strain. Bevan had foreseen this: “We shall never have all we need. Expectations will always exceed capacity.” But it is still a remarkable achievement and the envy of the world, however much we may like to grumble about it...


Your comments

What would we do without it?

Sharon Turner

It may be run down today through bad management as you suggest. However, it represented the first time that a government put its people's health first, the first time that medicine did not depend on your ability to pay for it and for that reason alone deserves to be cherished. Well done, Bevin!
Martin Milner

2 years ago the nhs was there for my mother.but at the moment due to bad mangement and bad goverment the nhs is in an appaling state and can no way be concidered an icon.
susan carrell

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I nominate the red pillar box.

Donna Spencer