Text of the public leaflet issued at the start of the NHS February 1948

The New National Health Service

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Your new National Health Service begins on 5th July. What is it? How do you get it?

It 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 a “charity”. You are all paying for it, mainly as tax payers, and it will relieve your money worries in time of illness.

Choose your Doctor Now

You and everyone in your family will be entitled to all usual advice and treatment from a family doctor. Everyone aged 16 and over can choose his or her own doctor. A family need not all have the same doctor, but parents or guardians choose for children under 16.

Your dealings with your doctor will remain as they are now: personal and confidential. You will visit his surgery, or he will call on you, as may be necessary. The difference is that the doctor will be paid by the Government, out of funds provided by everybody.

Choose a doctor now- ask him to be your doctor under the new arrangements. Many will choose their present doctors. Any doctor can decline to accept a patient. If one doctor cannot accept you, ask another, or ask to be put in touch with one by the new “Executive Council” which has been set up in your area (you can get its address from the Post Office).

If you are already on a doctor’s list under the old National Health Insurance Scheme, now is the time to decide. Get an application form for each member of the family from the doctor you choose, or from any Post Office, Executive Council Office, or public library. Fill in the forms and give them to the doctor.

Later, your local Executive Council will send a “medical card” to everyone who has been accepted by a doctor. If you want to change your doctor, you can do so at any time without difficulty. If you need a doctor when away from your own district, you can go to any doctor who is taking part in the new arrangements. You will not have to pay.

Help to have the Scheme ready by 5th July by choosing your doctor at once.

For any further information about these arrangements, ask at the offices of the local Executive Council.

Maternity Services

An expectant mother can have the services of a doctor who undertakes maternity work (whether he is her usual doctor or not), and of a midwife, as well as general care before and after confinement. If her usual doctor does not undertake maternity work, he, or the Welfare Centre, will put the expectant mother in touch with another doctor. It will be the doctor’s responsibility, with a midwife, to give all proper care and ( if he considers it necessary or is called in by the midwife) to be present at the confinement.

Hospital and Specialist Services

You will also be entitled to all forms of treatment in general or special hospitals, whether as an in-patient or as an out-patient. These include, for instance, maternity care, sanatorium care, care of mental health, and all surgical operations.

Medicines, Drugs and Appliances

Your doctor will give you a prescription for any medicines and drugs you need. You can get these free from any chemist who takes part in the Scheme. In some country areas the doctor himself may dispense medicines.

The same is true for all necessary appliances. Some of them will be obtainable through hospitals; some your doctor can prescribe for you. There will be no charge, unless careless breakage causes earlier replacement than usual.

Care of the Teeth

A dental service will be provided, but at present there are too few dentists to make a full service available to all without delay.

After 5th July you can go to any dentist taking part in the new arrangements (there will be a list at your Post Office). You need no application form. Just call, by appointment, on the dentist of your choice when you need him. At his surgery you and he will sign a form for your treatment under the new arrangements. All necessary fillings and dentures will be supplied without fee, but if you want anything specially expensive, and beyond what is necessary, you will pay the extra cost yourself.

Until a full dental service, without delays, can be made available, a special priority service for expectant and nursing mothers and young children is being organised by local authorities (in addition to the school dental service). Full information about this priority service can be obtained at Welfare Centres.

Care of the Eyes

Care of the eyes will be undertaken by specialists at hospitals, or at special clinics which will be part of the hospital service, as fast as these can be organised. Meanwhile a Supplementary Eye Service will be available after 5th July.

First get a recommendation from your family doctor that your eyes need testing. Then hand that recommendation to any doctor with special qualifications (lists will be available) or to any ophthalmic optician taking part in the new service.. If you need glasses, these will be provided without charge. For re-testing you can go direct to any of the doctors with special qualifications, or to an ophthalmic optician.

The National Health Service will provide several kinds of spectacles of different types. For specially expensive types you will have to pay the extra cost.

Deafness

Specialist ear clinics will be established as resources allow. At them you will get not only an expert opinion upon deafness but also, if necessary, a new hearing aid invented by a special committee of the Medical Research Council. Production of these aids is now going on, but will not meet all demands at once. They will be supplied free, when ready, together with a reasonable allowance of maintenance batteries

Home Health Services

Special premises known as Health Centres may later be opened in your district. Doctors may be accommodated there instead of in their own surgeries, but you will still have “your own doctor” to give you personal and confidential treatment. He will still come to your home as necessary. At the Health Centre he will be able to use equipment supplied from public funds. These Centres may also offer dentistry and other services on the spot.

What to Do Now

  1. Choose your doctor.
  2. Get application forms from him or from the Post Office, Public Library, or office of the local Executive Council.
  3. Fill in one for each member of the family.
  4. Hand them to the doctor

Prepared by the Central Office of Information for the Ministry of Health

(83077) Wt.39168 2/48 Hw.

8 Comments

  1. Jackie Bishop says:

    Good morning

    Is there a section in the original 1948 NHS document, that refers to entitlement to the service for visitors to the UK,( non UK residents.)

    thank you
    regards
    Jackie

  2. Martin Rathfelder says:

    What Bevan said, in 1952: One of the consequences of the universality of the British Health Service is the free treatment of foreign visitors. This has given rise to a great deal of criticism, most of it ill-informed and some of it deliberately mischievous. Why should people come to Britain and enjoy the benefits of the free Health Service when they do not subscribe to the national revenues? So the argument goes. No doubt a little of this objection is still based on the confusion about contributions to which I have referred. The fact is, of course, that visitors to Britain subscribe to the national revenues as soon as they start consuming certain commodities, drink and tobacco for example, and entertainment. They make no direct contribution to the cost of the Health Service any more than does a British citizen.

    However, there are a number of more potent reasons why it would be unwise as well as mean to withhold the free service from the visitor to Britain. How do we distinguish a visitor from anybody else? Are British citizens to carry means of identification everywhere to prove that they are not visitors? For if the sheep are to be separated from the goats both must be classified. What began as an attempt to keep the Health Service for ourselves would end by being a nuisance to everybody. Happily, this is one of those occasions when generosity and convenience march together. The cost of looking after the visitor who falls ill cannot amount to more than a negligible fraction of £399,000,000, the total cost of the Health Service. It is not difficult to arrive at an approximate estimate. All we have to do is look up the number of visitors to Great Britain during one year and assume they would make the same use of the Health Service as a similar number of Britishers. Divide the total cost of the Service by the population and you get the answer. I had the estimate taken out and it amounted to about £200,000 a year.Obviously this is an overestimate because people who go for holidays are not likely to need a doctor’s attention as much as others. However, there it is. for what it is worth and you will see it does not justify the fuss that has been made about it.

    The whole agitation has a nasty taste. Instead of rejoicing at the opportunity to practice a civilized principle, Conservatives have tried to exploit the most disreputable emotions in this among many other attempts to discredit socialized medicine.

    Naturally when Britons go abroad they are incensed because they are not similarly treated if they need the attention of a doctor. But that also I am convinced will come when other nations follow our example and have health services of their own. When that happens we shall be able to work out schemes of reciprocity, and yet one more amenity will have been added to social intercourse. In the meantime let us keep in mind that, here, example is better than precept.

    1. Jackie Bishop says:

      what year was it decide that free NHS was only for residents of the UK, any quotes/paragraphs would be usful
      thank you
      Jackie

  3. Martin Rathfelder says:

    It has always been the case that the NHS was only for UK residents, but the definition of UK resident has changed over time. I have written a short account of what has happened as I understand it.

    1. andydoc says:

      Bevan clearly states that treatment is available even to visitors to Britain ie non-residents. I suppose the actuarily (is that a word) minded would be exercised by the relatively high number of overseas visitors now, the rising costs of healthcare and the declining cost of airtravel, making health tourism a concern. However, I am with Bevan: “But that also I am convinced will come when other nations follow our example and have health services of their own.” Not only would this mollify the British overseas tourist, but would also decrease the likelihood of true health tourism (as opposed to other visitors falling ill).

  4. Martin Rathfelder says:

    In the Isle of Man the rule is that all visitors – at least from the UK – are regarded as resident as far as health services are concerned.

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