Section of poster advertising vaccination for smallpox (Catalogue reference: MH 12/5968/2)

This is a brief guide to help you find records about health policy and administration, including policies on nursing. The Ministry of Health records at The National Archives are wide-ranging and cover many aspects of the development of health policy in Britain.

  • What records can I see online?

    • Parliamentary Papers (1688-1834)

      Search the Parliamentary Papers (institutional subscription required) for digitised copies of official papers published by the House of Commons and House of Lords.

  • What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

    • Records of the Ministry of Health, its predecessors, and related bodies (1798-2001)

      Browse MH in Discovery, our cataloguea search tool with descriptions of tens of millions of documents from the UK central government, law courts, and other national bodies, to find records from the Ministry of Health, the Poor Law Commission and other bodies involved in the provision of healthcare from 1798 to the modern day.

      Search within MH in our catalogue, using appropriate keywords to search for specific topics. The following search terms will uncover some of the key topics covered in this department:

      • "public assistance" (particularly for health issues between the World Wars)
      • "poor law" (particularly for 19th century health issues)
    • Records of the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health and Social Security (1919-1998)

      Browse BN in our catalogue for records from the Ministry of Health, 1919 to 1968, and the Department of Health and Social Security, 1968 to 1988.

    • Records created or inherited by the Department of Health (1987-2005)

      Browse JA in our catalogue for records of the Department of Health relating to the provision and administration of health services.

    • Records of the General Nursing Council for England and Wales (c1860-1984)

      Browse DT in our catalogue for records of the General Nursing Council (GNC), founded in 1919, including documents pre-dating the creation of the GNC.

    • Nursing records of the Ministry of Labour (1907-1985)

      Search for Ministry of Labour records in our catalogue within LAB 8 (1907-1983), LAB 17 (1918-1985), LAB 19 (1913-1980) and LAB 26 (1940-1956), using the search term 'nurse'.

    • Mental health issues and policies (1798-1981)

      Browse the ten series (MH 50, MH 51, MH 83, MH 85, MH 86, MH 94, MH 95, MH 100, MH 103 and MH 118) of records of the Lunacy Commission, Board of Control and special hospitals within MH.

Did you know?

The Local Government Board was established in 1871. It was formed from the Poor Law Board, the Local Government Act Office of the Home Office and the Medical Department of the Privy Council Office. It had primary responsibility for supervision of local government services.

The Ministry of Health was established under the Ministry of Health Act 1919 and assumed the powers and duties of the Local Government Board and the National Health Insurance Commissions for England and Wales, together with powers of the Privy Council under the Midwives Acts.

Before the National Health Service was established in 1948 healthcare was fragmented with no central control.