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Beveridge and Bevan

The Beveridge Report 1942

The Beveridge Report of 1942 pointed to the establishment of a comprehensive national health service as a necessary underpinning to a national social insurance scheme. Labour had a long-standing commitment to a national health service, which was reaffirmed in the National Service for Health policy document of 1943.

Debate on the matter commenced under the Coalition Government and led to the White Paper 'A National Health Service' published in February 1944, that proposed a comprehensive and free service. The British Medical Association resisted the proposal that some general practitioners should become salaried state employees under the scheme. Henry Willink, Minister for Health under Churchill, produced a compromise White Paper, which enabled general practitioners to continue as independent contractors or private practitioners.

Aneurin Bevan

Following Labour's election victory in July 1945, Aneurin Bevan was appointed Minister of Health. Within a matter of weeks, Bevan produced a plan for a fully nationalised and regionalised National Health Service. He proposed a 'tripartite' system of administration across public health through local authorities, hospitals and independent-contractor services, including general practitioners, dentists, pharmacists and ophthalmologists. Hospitals were to be nationalised and organised under Regional Hospital Boards. There would be a full-time salaried general practitioner service and the sale of medical practices would be forbidden.

From the perspective of the Labour Party, the regionalisation of hospitals (which Bevan regarded as essential to a uniform and efficient service) was the most controversial aspect of the scheme. It provoked some debate in Cabinet, where the Lord President of the Council Herbert Morrison was opposed to the removal of control from local authorities. However, cabinet members readily accepted other aspects of Bevan's scheme.