History & Context

Content in this section was created by National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare.

Aneurin Bevan - Founding father of the NHSThe NHS was established on the 5th of July 1948. Its founding father and chief architect was the Minister of Health and Welshman Aneurin Bevan.

Before the NHS was set up healthcare was provided on a piecemeal and patchwork basis with many people having to pay directly for primary and hospital care services and others not receiving the services they needed.

The NHS was to be funded out of general taxation and was to be based on the following principles:

  • Free at the point of delivery
  • Comprehensive
  • Equity
  • Equality


The aim of the NHS was to promote:

"The establishment of a comprehensive health service designed to secure improvement in the physical and mental health of the people of England and Wales and the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illness”  (1946 NHS Act).


The values which underpinned the establishment of the NHS still hold true today but the founders of the NHS could not have anticipated the pressures which would be placed on the system over more than 50 years. Advances in technology, a growing elderly population, increased expectations and knowledge have all increased the demands for health care which have to be met out of a limited budget.


NHS Wales down the decades

Since 1948 the NHS has seen many changes both in the delivery of healthcare services and in the ways in which those services are structured and organised. This section explores those changes on a decade by decade basis from the growth period of the 1960s to the constraints of the 1970s and 80s right up to the current organisational and structural arrangements which shape NHS Wales today.