Celebrating 70 Years of the NHS

The 5th of July is the 70th anniversary of the creation of the National Health Service here in the UK, which fundamentally altered the public’s relationship to healthcare. In 1948 Aneurin “Nye” Bevan, the Health Secretary in Clement Attlee’s newly elected Labour government, pushed forward the ambitious plan to provide free healthcare to all; financed entirely from taxation, and encompassing all aspects of healthcare from hospitals, doctors, nurses, to pharmacists, opticians and dentists. Prior to this, an individual was largely financially responsible for their own healthcare. With this act, medical provision became the legal right of everyone and the financial worry was removed for the poor.

It’s hard to understate how significant a change this was; the nationalisation of the entire healthcare system and creation of a free-at-point-of-care service funded from general taxation. But it took Bevan, the youngest member of the Attlee Cabinet, with his socialist background as an activist and councillor, to push through the act, despite considerable resistance from the opposition, the medical profession, the press and members of his own party.

Yet 70 years later, the NHS is a cherished part of our national identity, values and principles that few would argue against. Having survived 16 governments since then and countless attempts to reform, overhaul, modernise and regenerate, it has managed to keep going and keep providing to those who need it most. However, it’s now, on it’s 70th anniversary, that it faces it’s most significant challenges from years of unrelenting cuts and underfunding.

Because of this I wanted to produce something to celebrate it’s creation and the crucial principles it was based off of. The quote I chose was from the 5th chapter of Nye Bevan’s book “In Place of Fear” published in 1952, which contained a wealth of potential extracts that I would have used, and may use one day such as the ones below:

“Society becomes more wholesome, more serene, and spiritually healthier, if it knows that its citizens have at the back of their consciousness the knowledge that not only themselves, but all their fellows, have access, when ill, to the best that medical skill can provide. But private charity and endowment, although inescapably essential at one time, cannot meet the cost of all this. If the job is to be done, the state must accept financial responsibility.”

“To put it another way, you provide, when you are well, a service that will be available if and when you fall ill. It is therefore an act of collective goodwill and public enterprise and not a commodity privately bought and sold.”

The print itself was made with a mixture of woodblock and lead type, printed in three colours, including standard NHS blue with two hues as well, onto GFSmith Colorplan Bright White 270gsm stock. Printed on our Jardine treadle platen press in an edition of 50.

Available via our online store here.