Secretary of State for Health
Creating the National Health Service was a tremendous leap of faith on the part of the post-War Labour Government. Fifty years on we can say with pride that our National Health Service remains, as it began, the most comprehensive, publicly-funded health service in any democracy. I congratulate the Health Service. I thank the nurses, doctors, staff, managers and volunteers who have been its heroes, and I thank the people of this country who have supported it consistently.
The NHS has stood the test of time, but it has sometimes suffered from neglect, and it can never afford to stand still. So my congratulations come with an assurance that this Government intends to modernise the NHS. In our recently-published White Paper "The New NHS" we made it clear that we intend to create a new model for the Twenty-first Century. This is a commitment to create a Health Service that meets people's wishes for a genuinely national Health Service that provides them with up-to-date, quicker and more responsive services locally, guaranteeing excellence for all. Our aspiration is that in 2048, people will continue to use with pride a comprehensive Health Service which has remained true to its founding principles.
Chief Executive, NHS Executive
The NHS Act was the greatest piece of social legislation this century in this or any other country. In Bevan's words it "lifted the shadow from millions of homes" and it continues to do so to this day.
The purpose of the NHS has been clear from the outset. It is
"to secure through the resources available the greatest possible improvement in the physical and mental health of the people by:
- promoting health
- preventing ill health
- diagnosing and treating injury and disease;
- and caring for those with term illness and disability"
No one in the NHS disagrees with this purpose and it should continue to be at the centre of everything we do.
The people who work in the NHS have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to changing technology, clinical practice and social expectations. It is right that we should celebrate their achievements but we must also look to the future. The fundamental commitment to better health and better services remains but we still have a great deal to do in tackling health inequalities, integrating services across the boundaries of health and social care, improving the quality of services and involving staff and the public in shaping our plans for the future. 50 years ago Bevan recognised that "we must always be changing, growing and improving..."
My sincere thanks to everyone who works in the NHS and everyone who cares about it. Here's to the next 50 years.