Timeline of healthcare in the United Kingdom

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This is a timeline of healthcare in the United Kingdom. Major events such as crisis, policies and organizations are described.


Year/period Key developments
<1911 Healthcare in United Kingdom is generally available only to the wealthy, unless one is able to obtain free treatment through charity or teaching hospitals.[1]
1911-1946 A National Insurance Act is introduced in which a small amount is deducted from an employee’s wage and in return they are entitled to free healthcare. However this scheme only benefits employed individuals.[1]
1946 onwards Following the Second World War, major social reforms aim at a universal healthcare system as main purpose. A respective National Health Service (NHS) is established for England (NHS England), Scotland (NHS Scotland), and Wales (NHS Wales) as independent institutions. Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland is also established.
Present time Today, the healthcare system in the United Kingdom is still fragmented, with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each having their own systems of publicly funded healthcare, funded by and accountable to separate governments and parliaments, together with smaller private sector and voluntary provision. In a 2014 report ranking developed-country healthcare systems, the overall healthcare system of the United Kingdom was ranked the best in the world in the following categories: Quality of Care (i.e. effective, safe, coordinated, patient-oriented), Access to Care, Efficiency, and Equity.[2]
Evolution of healthcare expenditure in Pounds in the United Kingdom. Local maxima can be appreciated around World War I and World War II.[3]


Year/period Type of event Event Location
1106 Organization St Thomas' Hospital is established. Originally a monastery hospital.[4] England (London)
1123 Organization St Bartholomew's Hospital is founded by the monk Rahere in order to give free medical care to the poor.[5] England (London)
1550 Organization St Thomas's Hospital Medical School is founded.[4] London
1721 Organization Guy's Hospital is founded.[4][6] England (London)
1737 Organization Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is founded.[7] Scotland (Foresterhill)
1740 Organization The Royal London Hospital is founded. It is part of Barts Health NHS Trust.[8] England (London)
1766 Organization Addenbrooke's Hospital is founded as a teaching hospital.[9] England (Cambridge)
1794 Organization Glasgow Royal Infirmary is founded.[10] Scotland (Glasgow)
1803 Organization Bedford Hospital is founded.[11] England (Bedford)
1804 Organization Moorfields Eye Hospital is founded. It is the first center in the world for ophthalmic treatment.[12] England (London)
1815 Policy Apothecaries Act 1815 is passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act introduces compulsory apprenticeship and formal qualifications for apothecaries, in modern terms general practitioners, under the license of the Society of Apothecaries. It is the beginning of regulation of the medical profession in Great Britain. The Act requires instruction in anatomy, botany, chemistry, materia medica and "physic", in addition to six months of practical hospital experience.[13]
1832 Organization The British Medical Association is established. It is the professional association and registered trade union for doctors in the United Kingdom.[14] England (London)
1840 Organization King's College Hospital is founded.[4][15] England (London)
1851 Organization The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust is founded. It is the first hospital in the world dedicated to the study and treatment of cancer.[16][17] England (London)
1858 Policy Medical Act 1858 is enacted to regulate the qualifications of practitioners in medicine and surgery.[18]
1859 Organization The National Hospital for the Paralyzed and Epileptic (today National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery) is founded. It is the first hospital in the world specializing in outpatient epilepsy care.[19] England (London)
1862 Organization Birmingham Children's Hospital is founded.[20] England (Birmingham)
1866 Organization Stratheden Hospital is founded.[21] Scotland (Cupar)
1870 Organization The British Red Cross is founded.[22]
1888 Achievement Murdoch Cameron performs the first Caesarean section at the Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital using modern antiseptic conditions[23] Scotland (Glasgow)
1904 Organization Adamson Hospital is founded.[24] Scotland (Cupar)
1909 Organization The Institute of Cancer Research is founded as a public research institute and university. In 2003 the ICR joined the University of London. A number of breakthrough discoveries have taken place in the ICR, including that the basic cause of cancer is damage to DNA.[25] England (London)
1911 Policy The National Insurance Act 1911 is assented, with the longer title An Act to provide for Insurance against Loss of Health and for the Prevention and Cure of Sickness and for Insurance against Unemployment, and for purposes incidental thereto. It provides for the compulsory insurance of lower paid workers and set a fixed capitation fee for doctors.[26] England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland
1913 Organization The Highlands and Islands Medical Service (HIMS) is established. It is directly funded by the state and administered centrally by the Scottish Office in Edinburgh working with local committees. Though treatment is not free, fees are set at minimal levels and people can still get treated even if they are unable to pay.[27] Scotland
1914 Organization Alder Hey Children's Hospital is founded. Today it is a major national children's hospital and NHS foundation trust.[28] England (Liverpool)
1925 Organization Aldeburgh Cottage Nursing Association is founded. Now renamed Aldeburgh Cottage Hospital.[29] England (Aldeburgh)
1926 Policy New Bill reduces the government's contribution to the health scheme, in an attempt to force insurance companies to increase funding.[26]
1940 Development First use of the wonder drug Penicillin on a large scale takes place at RAF Hospital Halton.[30]
1942 A National Health Service is first proposed to the Parliament.[31]
1946–1948 Organization A respective National Health Service (NHS) is founded across the countries of the United Kingdom: NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales, and the Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists are brought together under one organization to provide services that are free for all at the point of delivery. Today, the NHS is responsible for the public healthcare sector of the United Kingdom.[1][32]
1947 Organization Bupa is founded. Today an international healthcare group, it is the single largest British health insurance company in United Kingdom.[33][1] England (London)
1948 Policy Park Hospital (now Trafford General Hospital) becomes the first hospital in the world to offer free healthcare to all.[34] England (Trafford)
1949 Policy The Nurses Act establishes a modern framework for the role of nursing within the National Health Insurance.[35]
1950–1955 Organization The National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR) is created to facilitate the transfer of patients between Health Board areas or across borders within the countries of the United Kingdom.[36] Scotland
1952 Organization The Royal College of General Practitioners is established. It is the professional body for general (medical) practitioners (GPs/Family Physicians/Primary Care Physicians) in the United Kingdom.[37]
1954 Policy Daily hospital visits for children is introduced, after having been demonstrated that separation from their parents is traumatic.[32]
1956 Policy The Parliament enacts the Clean Air Act in response to worsening air pollution in urban areas of the UK.[35]
1958 Campaign The National Health Insurance introduces polio and diphtheria vaccines in its plan to promote good health instead of merely treating illness. This program ensures everyone under the age of 15 is vaccinated and will lead to an immediate and dramatic reduction in cases of both diseases.[32]
1959 Policy The Mental Health Act is passed. It replaces much of the existing legislation on the provision of mental health services in England, bringing the provision of mental health services within the general administrative machinery of the National Health Service for the first time.[35]
1960 Achievement The first kidney transplant in the United Kingdom takes place at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, involving an identical set of 49-year-old twins. The procedure becomes successful, with both donor and recipient living for a further six years before dying of an unrelated illness.[32] Scotland (Edinburgh)
1961 The contraceptive pill is made available. It is considered to have played a major role in women’s liberation and having contributed to the sexual freedom of the so-called Swinging Sixties. Initially, it is only available to married women, but the law is relaxed in 1967.[32]
1961 Policy The Human Tissue Act is passed. It issues guidance on the use of the bodies of deceased persons for medical or educational research, stating that professionals must have no reason to believe that any surviving relatives object.[35]
1962 Minister of Health Enoch Powell’s Hospital Plan recommends the development of district general hospitals covering populations of around 125,000.[35]
1967 Policy The Abortion Act is passed. It legalizes abortions up to 28 weeks’ gestation for all women, not only when the life of the mother is in danger as was previously the law.[35]
1968 Development South Africa-born surgeon Donald Ross, leading a team of 18 doctors and nurses, performs the first heart transplant in the United Kingdom.[32]
1968 Organization The Ministry of Health merges with the Ministry of Social Security to form the Department of Health and Social Security.[35]
1970 Organization Airedale General Hospital is founded.[38] England (Steeton with Eastburn)
1972 Development The first commercially viable CT scanner is developed by Sir Godfrey Hounsfield, at EMI Central Research Laboratories using X-rays. CT scans revolutionize the way doctors examine the body.[39][32] England (Hayes, Hillingdon)
1973 Policy The National Health Service Reorganisation Act is enacted, allowing for structural changes.[40]
1974 Organization Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital is founded.[41] England (Basingstoke)
1976 Organization York Hospital is founded.[42] England (York)
1978 Organization International Hospitals Group is founded as a healthcare services company.[43] England (Buckinghamshire)
1978 Development British gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe, at Oldham General Hospital, and physiologist Robert Edwards, at Cambridge University, develop a new technique to fertilize an egg outside a woman's body before replacing it in the womb. This technique leads to the world's first baby born as a result of in vitro fertilisation (IVF).[32]
1978 Organisation Royal Liverpool University Hospital was found
1979 Development British professor Roland Levinsky performs the first successful bone marrow transplant in the country on a child with primary immunodeficiency, at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.[32]
1982 Policy The National Health Service abolishes area health authorities (AHAs) with aims at simplifying the structure of the healthcare system.[35]
1982 Organization Care UK is founded. It provides health and social care.[44]
1983 Policy Medical Act 1983 is enacted in order to consolidate the Medical Acts 1956 to 1978 and certain related provisions, with amendments to give effect to recommendations of the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission.[45]
1983 Policy The Mental Health Act allows individuals deemed to be mentally ill and a risk to themselves or others, to be detained in hospital and given treatment.[35]
1986 Campaign The first AIDS health campaign is organized in the United Kingdom. This campaign is in line with the original National Health Service intention to improve health and prevent disease, as well as offer treatment.[32]
1987 Development British professor Sir Roy Yorke Calne and Professor John Wallwork perform the world's first liver, heart and lung transplant at Papworth Hospital.[32] England (Cambridge)
1988 Technology launch Routine newborn hearing screening with otoacoustic emission (OAE) is first introduced at Whipps Cross University Hospital.[46] England (London)
1989 Organization Alliance Medical is founded as an independent radiology services company. Alliance MEdical is a private provider of NHS services.[47]
1990 Policy The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act replaces the Abortion Act. The new act states that abortion is no longer legal after 24 weeks except if: the mother’s life is in danger; there is extreme foetal abnormality; or there is a grave risk of physical or mental injury to the mother.[48]
1990 Policy National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 is enacted with the purpose of creating an internal market and a purchaser-provider split in which the purchasers (mainly health authorities) are handed budgets to purchase services from providers (mainly acute hospitals and those providing care for people with mental health problems, people with learning disabilities as well as older people).[49]
1991 Organization Hayward Medical Communications is founded as a full service medical communications agency.[50] England (London)
1991 Policy The Patient's Charter is launched as a document by the government of the United Kingdom. The charter sets out patients' rights for the first time and the standards which will be set nationally and locally by the health service, including the first waiting time guarantees.[51]
1992 Organization Healthcare at Home is founded as a pharmaceutical supplier.[52] England (Burton on Trent)
1993 Organization General Healthcare Group is founded. It owns BMI Healthcare which runs around 70 hospitals nationwide.[53] England (London)
1995 Organization Premier Medical Group is founded as a healthcare company. It provides expert opinions for the legal and insurance industries.[54] England (London)
1995 Organization Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry is formed by a merger of St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College and the London Hospital Medical College with Queen Mary and Westfield College.[55] England (London)
1998 Policy The Department of Health develops a set of National Service Frameworks with the purpose of improving particular areas of care, such as coronary, cancer, mental health, diabetes, etc. The NSF is aimed at setting national standards and identifying changes that need to be made for certain defined services or care groups.[1]
1998 Organization NHS Direct is established as a national health line in order to provide expert health advice and information.[56]
1999 Organization The Scottish Executive Health Department (SEHD) is created from the former Scottish Office Health Department (SOHD). Scotland
1999 Organization The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is established as the body responsible for developing national guidelines and standards related to health promotion and prevention, assessment of new and existing technology (including medicines and procedures) and treatment and care clinical guidance, available across the National Health Service.[31]
2000 Organization The first Ayurvedic hospital outside India is founded.[57] London, United Kingdom
2000 Organization University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust is established with the merger of the Leicester General Hospital, Glenfield Hospital and Leicester Royal Infirmary.[58] England (Leicester)
2001 Organization Bristol Royal Hospital for Children is founded.[59] England (Bristol)
2002 Organization ID Medical Group Ltd is founded as a healthcare recruitment company.[60] England (Milton Keynes)
2004 Policy The United Kingdom introduces a Quality and Outcome Framework, in order to measure the quality of care delivered by General Practitioners. This framework provides incentives for improving quality: practices are awarded points related for how well the practice is organized, how patients view their surgical experiences, whether extra services (such as children’s health and maternity) are offered, and how well common chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes are managed.[1]
2006 Organization NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is created as a NHS board.[61] Scotland
2006 Organization St Andrews Community Hospital is founded.[62] Scotland (St Andrews)
2007 Organization Spire Healthcare is founded as a private healthcare provider.[63] England (London)
2013 Organization Genomics England is established in order to run the 100,000 Genomes Project, with the purpose of sequencing 100,000 genomes from NHS patients with a rare disease and their families, and patients with cancer.[64]
2015 Organization Queen Elizabeth University Hospital is founded. It is one of the largest acute hospitals in the UK.[65] Scotland (Glasgow)

See also[edit]


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