No new scheme for social welfare can ever have been launched with such acclaim and high hopes as the British National Health Service in 1948. It constituted a government undertaking to provide in full medical services of all kinds to all citizens (and indeed to foreigners) without charge. It was, in the euphoria of the day, prematurely described as ‘the envy of the world’. In the event it had, by 1976, proved to be almost the opposite of this. For the National Health Service was frequently being described as on the point of breakdown. Despite the steadfast work of a body of devoted doctors and nurses, the medical services available were certainly inferior to those obtainable in a number of other countries; conflict had developed between the government and the medical profession; friction was rampant in hospitals between doctors and ancillary staff. Perhaps most lasting and tragic of all, the country had apparently riveted upon itself a system from which it is difficult, if not impossible, to escape. For no political party seems prepared to retrace steps, to challenge the faulty reasoning underlying the creation of the Health Service or to face the inevitable consequences of the system and to take those unpopular (at least temporarily) steps to correct past errors.
KeywordsNational Health Medical Service National Health Insurance Scheme Capital Expenditure Royal Commission
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