On the week of the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service, the Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, asks Oldhamers to recognise that it was first a Liberal idea before it was implemented by the post-war Labour Government.
Councillor Sykes said: “On 5 July 1948, we marked the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service, probably Britain’s best-loved public institution. Many of us are rightly proud that Britain led the way in establishing a universal, free-at-the-point-of-need health service following the Second World War. Most of us have had good reason to be grateful that excellent medical care from dedicated staff has been available to us at some point in our lives, maybe even at the very start of our life, paid for through general taxation. Despite being under threat from Conservative Government austerity cuts, the NHS is still respected and admired the world over as a model of healthcare to aspire to.”
Councillor Sykes added: “Although many admirers may see Aneurin Bevan, Attlee’s Labour Minister of Health, as the architect of the NHS, it was in fact the brainchild of Liberal economist and reformer William Beveridge. Beveridge was commissioned by Churchill’s war-time Coalition Government to write a report about how the nation should be rebuilt after the tribulations of the Second World War. In his report, published in 1942, he recommended the establishment of a comprehensive welfare state, including the need to establish a ‘National Health Service’.”
Councillor Sykes concluded: “At the end of the Second World War in Europe, all three major political parties, Conservative, Labour and Liberal, had commitments in their 1945 Election Manifestos to establish an NHS; all three would have done so, it just happened to be Labour that was put into power to do it. So let us celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS with pride whatever our political allegiance, but also remember that it was a Liberal who came up with the idea of the NHS in the first place, and a Liberal who gave the service a name.”