Today, I will be attending a service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate a truly extraordinary anniversary that proudly sets Britain ahead of every other country in the world – the founding of a National Health Service, paid for from general taxation, universally available to all free at the point of need.
Our National Health Service was founded at Park Hospital in Manchester on this day 70 years ago by the then Labour Secretary of State for Health Aneurin Bevan.
We have all benefited from the vision and determination of the post-war Labour government that fought off a determined rear-guard action by vested interests to establish a truly world beating institution.
Thank you to everyone who has worked for, campaigned for and promoted our NHS. We know that we need to recommit to the founding principles of our NHS again today.
Particular congratulations to the Zero Suicide Alliance who are regional winners of the NHS70 Excellence in Mental Health Care Award.
Today, suicide takes the lives of too many people, but it can be prevented. Since its launch last November with backing of our own Mersey Care, the alliance has supported nearly 5,000 people to complete online training to save someone’s life.
Labour’s commitment to the NHS, then and now, is underlined today in series of interviews from the Aneurin Bevan Society. Its chair, Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, has interviewed all past and current living Labour leaders. The full set of interviews are available by clicking here.
As former Labour leader Margaret Beckett points out in her interview: ‘When we left office, the NHS had the best ratings from everyone it ever had, and it’s already going very badly away from that. I am in no doubt that if we continue to elect Tory governments, the health service will be destroyed.’
The NHS has done so much over the last 70 years, but we know that there are challenges ahead – to achieve full equality of mental and physical health, to fully integrate health and social care and to create the sustainable funding framework that ensures its future.
Critically, we must also invest in prevention, early intervention and public health to do everything possible to stop people getting ill in the first place.
Over the next 70 years, our National Health Service has to do exactly what it says on the label – be national, support good health and not just pick up the pieces of ill health, and offer the services we all need.
Our NHS, 70 years young.
Please join me in sending the NHS best wishes on its 70th birthday by clicking here.