5 July 2023 marks 75 years of the NHS. Treating over a million people a day in England, the NHS touches all of our lives. When it was founded in 1948, the NHS was the first universal health system to be available to all, free at the point of delivery. Today, nine in 10 people agree that healthcare should be free of charge, more than four in five agree that care should be available to everyone, and that the NHS makes them most proud to be British.
This is because, since 1948, the NHS has always evolved and adapted to meet the needs of each successive generation.
From Britain’s first kidney transplant in 1960, to Europe’s first liver transplant in 1968.
From the world’s first CT scan on a patient in 1971, revolutionising the way doctors examine the body, to the world’s first test-tube baby born in 1978.
Large-scale vaccination programmes protected children from whooping cough, measles, and tuberculosis, and in 1999 the meningitis C vaccine was offered nationally in a world first.
The NHS has delivered huge medical advances, including the world’s first liver, heart, and lung transplant in 1987, pioneering new treatments, such as bionic eyes and, in more recent times, the world’s first rapid whole genome sequencing service for seriously ill babies and children.
None of this innovation would be possible without the skill and expertise of NHS staff, volunteers, and our partners in the social care sector. From the midwives who help bring us into the world, the GPs and pharmacists who are our first port of call when we are sick, the nurses, doctors and other clinicians who care for us in our time of need, the porters and cleaners who keep our hospitals moving, and the hundreds of thousands of dedicated staff and volunteers in between – our people are the driving force in helping us do this.
From the day it launched, the NHS has relied on staff from across the world – from the Windrush Generation of 1948 to today’s workforce, represented by over 200 nationalities.
As we mark 75 years of the NHS, we are looking back on our achievements, as well as looking ahead to the opportunities we have to shape the next 75. Our task is to plot and deliver a future in which we preserve the key principles on which the service is founded; tackle the challenges ahead and embrace future opportunities.