NHS turns 65 today: how has it evolved?


David Cameron with nursesThe National Health Service (NHS) turns 65 today.

It has changed a lot since being established on July 5, 1948 with the aim of providing free cradle to grave care for everyone, rich or poor. How has it evolved over the last 65 years - and will it be here for much longer?

The NHS is the world's largest publicly funded health service and has helped save millions of lives.

It also provides jobs vital to Britain's economy: some 1.7 million people work for the NHS, making it one of the largest employers in the world.

However, it could cease to exist in its current form within 10 years unless "radical" changes are made, according to a new report from the NHS Confederation.

What's the problem?
Unsurprisingly, the problems faced by the NHS today come down to money - or rather the lack of it.

The initial 1948 budget of £437 million a year (which equates to about £9 billion today) has rocketed to £108.9 billion today.

And as the funding comes directly from taxation, one question is whether Britons are prepared to pay more tax to keep the NHS open for business.

A lack of money is not the only issue, though. The NHS has also been lambasted for wasting money, failing patients and providing fragmented, rather than integrated care. Even Prime Minister David Cameron admits that it has "huge issues".

What is being done?
Recent changes to the NHS include the abolition of under-performing primary care trusts (PCTs) and strategic health authorities (SHAs) and the introduction of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and Healthwatch England.

Just today, the government also announced plans for all elderly people receiving care to have a single doctor or nurse tracking their treatment in a bid to ensure they receive more integrated care.

There are also reports about it considering limiting the free care available to immigrants - even though that goes against the NHS' initial aim of offering free care for all.

Is the NHS worth it?
Despite the problems, having access to free health care is an enormous advantage. Figures also show that life expectancy has risen and infant mortality has fallen since the NHS was established.

And recent surveys show that patients are generally satisfied with the care they receive from the NHS, suggesting that it is doing something right.

The NHS in numbers
1. The NHS deals with more than 1 million patients every 36 hours.
2. Each month, a massive 23 million people visit their GP surgery or practice nurse.
3. NHS ambulances make over 50,000 emergency journeys each week.
4. Approximately 170,000 people go for an eyesight test each week.
5. In a typical week, 1.4 million people will receive NHS help at home.

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