The First NHS: How John Tomley’s Work Led to Modern Healthcare

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We all think the NHS was first dreamed up by Nye Bevan when he became minister of health in 1945. Yet experiments with the NHS and welfare state in fact started many years before.

Inspired by a doctor who coined the phrase “national health service” in 1910, John Tomley and David Davies took steps to pilot the first ever national health service, focusing on TB in Wales, the WNMA. Through the findings of the WNMA’s work, as well as John’s work as a local health commissioner and UK leader of the largest health service providers, the friendly societies, John campaigned for effective treatment for TB, including prevention and a national health service.

John successfully led the campaign for the government’s Welsh TB Inquiry, which led directly to the Beveridge Report and the founding of the NHS and wider welfare state in 1948. His family then forgot about his work, due to the ravages of a genetic disease, so John’s story has never been told. Meanwhile the NHS, which John helped to found, also led to a cure for this disease for his great-great-granddaughter.

The moral of this surprising tale? If John can do it, any of us can. We have what John described as the “golden keys’ in our hands. By understanding the crucial information John gave us from his life’s work, the importance of fighting all the Beveridge Report’s Five Giants at once, we can tackle the social determinants of health today, and change people’s lives for our generation and future generations.

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Manufacturer/Publisher: Pen & Sword
Binding: Hardback
Author: Emma Snow
Pagination: 224p

SKU: 9781399038164