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Costs & Benefits: 1948-1958 Costs & Benefits: 1939-1948 Costs & Benefits: 1948-1958 Costs & Benefits: 1958-1968

British National Health Service

In Britain, the 1942 Beveridge Report included a call for a national health service that would provide health care to all Britons. Britain’s Conservative and Labour parties both produced plans, but it was the legislation of Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health for the Labour Party, that was passed in 1946 and put into effect in 1948. In a pamphlet to explain the new program to citizens, the government stated: “It [the National Health Service] will provide you with all medical, dental, and nursing care. Everyone — rich or poor, man, woman, or child — can use it or any part of it. There are no charges, except for a few special items. There are no insurance qualifications. But it is not charity. You are all paying for it, mainly as taxpayers, and it will relieve your money worries in times of illness” (Charles Webster, The National Health Service: A Political History (New Edition) [Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2002], p. 24). But the decision to nationalize the country’s hospitals, enlarge health districts and universalize health services prompted strong opposition from the British Medical Association. Nevertheless, the plan went into effect on July 5, 1948 and became a central component of the British welfare state. For Canadian politicians, citizens and doctors, Britain’s National Health Service represented an important alternative to American-style health insurance.

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    Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010