NHS founder ‘would be angry about health inequalities still in place across UK’

The founder of the NHS would be angry over the health inequalities that persist across the UK, the Welsh health secretary has said.

But Vaughan Gething said that Welshman Aneurin Bevan, also known as the chief architect of the health service, would be “proud” of the values that underpin the health service in Wales.

In an interview with the Press Association to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Mr Gething said that Wales is “continuing to push boundaries in healthcare”.

Mr Gething (pictured) said that part of Mr Bevan’s vision for the NHS came after he saw the stark health inequalities.

Mr Bevan was also inspired by the success of a local medical group in his home town where workers paid subscriptions every week to cover their medical and hospital expenses.

The scheme was so successful that the majority of the population of Tredegar in Wales were soon involved.

Reports suggest that in the early 1930s more than 20,000 people were members of the Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid Society.

On the creation of the NHS, Mr Gething told the Press Association: “Bevan recognised the huge health inequalities that existed in particular, that’s why it was such as radical thing to have a free service that was paid for with general taxation.

“And that came from his experience in Tredegar where the community had come together to share risks and share benefits as well. And that model then became rolled out across the whole of the UK.

“Now we don’t have people who have to worry about paying their medical bills and making choices between eating and medical treatment.

“And you don’t have people who get care because they can afford to have it and those who just simply can’t afford to do so.”

He added: “What is broadly set in stone though is that where you live, the quality of work you have, still has a big impact on your health outcomes.

“We still have more to do to address some of those health inequalities across the UK, and an awful lot of that is about having work and about having good quality work. And not just the quality of the health service – it is about how people are educated, the skills people have and what their prospects are in life.

“So he’d recognise the health inequalities that still exist and I think he’d be angry and passionate about doing something about them.

“But I also think he would recognise the values that underpin our service in Wales and I think he’d still be proud of them and I think he’d still fight for them as well.”

There are still stark health inequalities across Britain, with people living in some of the poorest areas having the worst health outcomes.

According to the Office for National Statistics, a person’s healthy life expectancy – how long they can expect to live in good health – varies by 18 years across different areas of the UK.

Mr Gething described how Wales had worked with local government and key third parties to create a vision of health and social care in the country.

“We have got an agreed vision of what the future of health and social care should look like in a more integrated way of working together,” said the Welsh Secretary for Health and Social Care.

“We want to provide the best possible care for people and you have got to have health and social care working together to do that.”

He added: “When we make national choices in Wales, we also do that for the whole country.

“There are big things on the horizon like the single pathway for cancer, that we think will make a big difference. Change in the way we have targets and measures for eye care as well, that we think will mean more people having their sight saved. We are continuing to push boundaries to change.

“There is always innovation and change going on here in Wales.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) BMA.