Wednesday 4 July 2018

The 70th Anniversary of the NHS

Hello again, for the first time in a while. I decided to post these pictures on here because they have a local significance. These are the scanned images of some paperwork retrieved from the house of my uncle when I cleared it after his death. The originals are now in the Northumberland County Archives at Woodhorn.

This one is the notice of the changes to National Health Insurance about to come into effect on 5th July 1948. Note the address of the local office in Clayport Street, Alnwick.

This is my uncle's membership card of an 'approved society' collecting contributions under the health insurance scheme established just before World War 1, covering employed workers.

It shows my uncle's address, and so incidentally also illustrates the Blackpool connection in my family history. My grandparents called their Alnwick red-brick semi 'Norbreck' after the place my grandmother grew up, originally a tiny medieval village just to the north of Blackpool but now very much a suburb.

This is the inside of the membership card, showing the record of contributions. Notice that a separate piece of paper has been stuck in to cover the period up to 4th July 1948. From the day after that nobody had to pay for health insurance any more, it was all free.

I think these documents are really interesting and important, because they are the kind of thing that rarely survives. (My uncle was a man who never willingly parted with a piece of paper, a characteristic that was mostly exasperating but in this case proved valuable.) They make it clear that the National Health Service was originally designed as a system of insurance, to take over from previous schemes of insurance to cover sickness and unemployment. Over time the link with 'national insurance' payments has been obscured and largely forgotten. I think the time has come to restore a form of contribution directly linked to the health service. Obviously means-tested and collected through taxation, but something that would make an often indifferent and ungrateful population focus more clearly on what they're paying for and how much they're paying and whether it's worth it or not. Like other countries. Like grown-ups.

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