Aneurin Bevan

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Copyright The New York Times

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Aneurin Bevan' page

Copyright David Low, Evening Standard

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Aneurin Bevan' page

Copyright Evening Standard

Hero of the NHS

By Dan Thomas

     Aneurin Bevan was born on the 15th of November, 1897 in Tredegar, Monmouthshire, Wales. He was the son of a coal miner and joined the South Wales Miners' Federation early on in his life. At the age of 19, he was the head of his local lodge. Bevan was also involved with the Tredegar Medical Aid Society, which had formed in 1890 as the Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid and Sick Relief Fund. Several local societies had come together to provide medical services to miners and workers who paid a halfpenny, later raised to one penny, each week in dues. It grew quickly, and within a few decades supported the vast majority of the local population.

     In 1945 following Clement Attlee's victory over Winston Churchill, Bevan was appointed Minister of Health and introduced the National Health Services Act of 1946, inspired by and modeled after the Tredegar Medical Aid Society. The act faced heavy opposition from Churchill's conservatives as well as the British Medical Association. The NHS would be expensive to create, and Churchill believed that what little money the government had needed to be spent elsewhere after the war. Attlee's victory was critical for Bevan, who never would have been appointed by Churchill. With Attlee in control Churchill was primarily a vocal opponent. 

     The BMA had been established for more than a century as a union for doctors in Britain and was concerned with the proposed methods of administration and wanted to protect their line of work, welfare, and income. After a year and a half Bevan was able to earn the support of most of the BMA by adding a handful of adjustments to the act that addressed doctor's concerns without compromising the intent. 

     On the 5th of July, 1948, the National Health Service was created. It would be paid for by public funds gained from increased taxes, and thousands of hospitals and clinics would be nationalized. The predecessor of the NHS, the Tredegar Medical Aid Society, continued to operate, although demand for its services fell until 1994 when it shut down for good.  

This page was added by Dan Thomas on 06/07/2018.

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