Manchester is the birthplace of numerous game changing inventions that we struggle to live without- the football league, atomic theory, graphene, railways, canals, votes for women and Vimto, to name a few. But one of the most important creations in history which began in Manchester was the National Health Service (NHS), the first universal health system to be available to all, free at the point of delivery.
On July 5th, 1948 at Park Hospital (now Trafford General Hospital) in Davyhulme, Manchester, the idea of making healthcare no longer exclusive to those who could afford it, but to make it accessible to everyone was born. The National Health Service, abbreviated to NHS, was launched by the then Minister of Health in Clement Attlee’s post-war government, Aneurin “Nye” Bevan, at the Manchester hospital which he symbolically received the keys to.
Before the creation of the NHS or anything like it, when someone found themselves needing a doctor or to use medical facilities, patients were generally expected to pay for those treatments. In some cases local authorities ran hospitals for the local ratepayers, an approach originating with the Poor Law.
Unfortunately, Bevan only got to see the development of the NHS in its infancy as he died in 1960, however he is not forgotten. A local Greater Manchester facility has been named in his honour (Nye Bevan House in Rochdale) and his title also appears on a leadership qualification supported by Alliance Manchester Business School (The Nye Bevan programme).
Treating over a million people a day in England, the NHS touches all of our lives one way or another and has been home to some ground-breaking health milestones and pioneering treatments. From Britain’s first kidney transplant in 1960 to Europe’s first liver transplant in 1968, to the world’s first CT scan on a patient in 1971 and the world’s first test-tube baby born in 1978.
The NHS has rolled out large-scale vaccination programmes for the likes of whooping cough, measles and tuberculosis and more recently Covid-19. In 1999, the meningitis C vaccine was offered nationally in a world first.
75 years on since its inception, the health service 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.
Without the formation of the NHS which took place in Manchester, and history being made, we might not have achieved such medical treatments and research and this is something we, as a city, can be pretty proud of.