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On November 7, 1946, the British Parliament enacted Britain's first comprehensive health legislation—the National Health Service Act. Recognition that established public and private institutions had not extended adequate health care to everyone prompted passage of the Act. Complete divorcement of the right to care from ability to pay was considered the only way to accomplish this. To accord with this principle the National Health Service is financed primarily from general tax funds—it is not an insurance program. Thus the Act makes the government responsible for providing free medical, dental, hospital, pharmaceutical and allied services for all who want them.

Regimentation of individuals using and providing service might facilitate achievement of the Act's objectives. But respect for the dignity of the human being is a basic concept underlying the statute: it rests on the theory that comprehensive free health care, like free education, is essential to individual freedom and to the welfare of a democratic society. And Parliament, anxious to avert the danger of regimentation, drafted the Act to ensure freedom of choice for patient and doctor, as well as the doctor's professional independence.

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