Life And Healthcare Before The NHS

Across the globe, we are known for our National Health Service, which is perceived to be as quintessentially British as roast dinners, poor weather and cricket on a village green. It is an institution to be proud of that lets the many be treated of their ills regardless of their background.

However, it wasn’t always so. Prior to the NHS being formed in 1948, working class people received their healthcare from charities, through ‘poor law’, which were the local welfare committees operating the workhouses; as well as an unregulated private sector. These were to ultimately morph into a service funded by local authorities, mutual payment schemes and not-for-profits.

Lady Almoners

A team of a thousand women known as ‘lady almoners’ would police the boundaries of these and private healthcare. It was their job to interview patients and decide an appropriate rate, if any at all.

Their role developed further to ensure that patients would also receive the support they needed after they left the hospital. These women would eventually focus purely on the aftercare piece by the 1960s, when they officially changed their names to ‘medical social workers’.

Back in Victorian times, those with money avoided hospitals at all costs, favouring a private physician at home rather than be among the hoi polloi. That said, hospitals were mostly funded by the middle and upper classes to provide the medical care to the working classes.

Can’t Pay, Will Pay, One Day

Those not wealthy enough to afford private physicians were required to pay according to their means whereas those that couldn’t pay were advised to join community savings schemes to ensure they could pay their way next time.

Just under 40 years before the introduction of the NHS as we know it, National Insurance was introduced by David Lloyd George as a sort of medical insurance. It was compulsory if you worked in certain industries, but generally didn’t cover family members; but allowed the person access to a doctor when needed. It usually didn’t cover hospital treatment, however.

Early Healthcare PAYG

If payment of NI wasn’t possible, you had to rely on the community-owned mutual aid funds and medical clubs, who required you to pay when times would allow, to benefit when finances didn’t.

It was therefore revolutionary when the NHS was rolled out as a major social reform after the Second World War. Regardless of your background and financial means, the founding principles were that you had access to services that should be comprehensive, universal and free at the point of delivery.

Happy Birthday NHS

We’ve just celebrated the 70th anniversary of the NHS. Whilst it has its struggles, there is no denying it always was, and continues to be a force to be reckoned with. It has an enviable lifeblood of incredible people whose hard work and integrity keep this country on its feet.

Whether you are working in private or NHS sector, we have a comprehensive range of roles in all areas. Search our jobs now or contact us for a chat.


Wednesday Sep 19, 2018