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History Of The National Health Service

2948 words - 12 pages

History of the National Health Service

The purpose of this essay is to outline the history of the National
Health Service and why it was introduced into the everyday lives of
the British people.

As the NHS is a major factor of the welfare given to the people of
Britain, we must look at the early years of the Welfare laws and acts
passed down through the centuries, which eventually lead to the
creation of the NHS. The first welfare reforms were known as the 'Poor
Laws', which had their beginnings in the Elizabethan era. In 1601 the
first Poor Laws were passed which basically put each parish in charge
of doling out relief to the parish poor. In theory these new laws
should have been sufficient for the people of the time, however in
practice these laws were not regulated or monitored and if a poor
person moved, they were not entitled to any relief in their new
parish. These laws remained largely unchanged until the new Poor Law
Amendment acts of 1834, which was only brought in after much
campaigning from around the land. This new law allowed a person to
accept a place into a 'House', commonly known as the Work House.
Although the poor person was given shelter and food in return for a
days work, the conditions endured were often worse than what was
experienced by the recipient before entering this 'charitable'
institution, the reason for this was to put off any vagabonds who were
too lazy to work an honest days work thus ensuring only the needy and
desperate would apply for help. (Joanne de Pennington-Beneath the
Surface: A Country of Two Nations. / Frank Field-The Welfare
State-Never Ending Reform. These two sources are from

Although the work house conditions didn't improve, the living
conditions outside did, and in the last half of the nineteenth
century, sanitation and housing improved due to the 1848 Public Health
Act. These improvements meant that people started to live longer.
However for the extremely poor there was still no safety net to help
them in old age and meant that medical treatment was not affordable to
them at any cost. Even in a poor house or infirmary, medical treatment
was crude and basic and more often than not the patient still died
with no cure for their ailments. In 1906 the Liberals swept into power
as the ruling Government, and they introduced a means tested old age
pension for persons aged seventy years old or above (at this time the
average life expectancy for men was around 48 years old). By 1911 a
basic national health and unemployment insurance act was passed with
contributions laid down by Parliament, with friendly societies and
mutually owned bodies operating the health schemes. During this time
and into the twenties, municipal hospitals were set up and they dealt
with treatment for the poor or low income population, upper classes...

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