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2600 hospitals!

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Guy's Hospital, established by generous and energetic Brits.

To mark the 60th anniversary of the National Health Service, Anthony Scholefield, the Director of Futurus, goes back to the 1940s when the NHS swallowed the existing, voluntary hospitals and health services. And he asks what value the NHS has brought to patients and the provision of healthcare.

Scholefield reveals the extraordinary contributions made by so many Brits in establishing more than 2,600 hospitals in Britain -

In 1948 the NHS appropriated the property of 1143 voluntary hospitals with 90,000 beds and 1,545 municipal hospitals with about 390,000 beds (190,000 beds of which were for mental illness and deficiency).  By 2000/1 these 480,000 beds had reduced to 186,000. 

On the less-is-more principle, the NHS had only 40 per cent of the beds of the expropriated charities and municipalities' hospitals, despite having expropriated the capital estate for nothing and sold off a good part of it.  A magnificent edifice, such as the Royal Earlswood Hospital, a rival to St. Pancras, built by a list of donors headed by Prince Albert, now has been turned into hundreds of flats in the Surrey countryside.  In the meantime the British population had increased by 25 per cent.  So the bed per head ratio was only 30 per cent of what existed before 1948.

So the vast charitable health properties built up over centuries (45 per cent of hospitals in 1948 were built before 1891 and 21 per cent before 1861) were expropriated.  Also, it should be remembered, the municipal hospitals were built up by rates paid by a relatively small number of citizens.  They were also expropriated with no return to those whose taxes had paid to built up these institutions.

If the creative energy of the British people could be released from the bondage of the government - its centralized "plans" and paperwork and lack of accountability - health care in Britain could be vastly improved, along the innovative lines of great British medical advances.

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