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Start of the NHS in Scotland

The 5 July 1948 is the official “vesting” day of the National Health Service across the UK.

The NHS didn’t just appear suddenly from nothing. It also did not create a single new nurse, doctor or bed.

Across the whole of the UK, Health Minister Nye Bevan nationalised the existing system.

The revolutionary change was to make all services freely available to everyone.

In Scotland half of landmass was already covered by a state-funded health system serving the whole community and directly run from Edinburgh. The Highlands and Islands Medical Service had been set up 35 years earlier.

In addition, the war years had seen a state-funded hospital building programme in Scotland on a scale unknown in Europe. This was incorporated into the new NHS.

For the first time – everyone in Britain had free access to a family doctor, prescription drugs, glasses or dentures. Hospitals mostly carried on their normal daily routines – they had patients to care for.

The big difference was is in general practices, pharmacies, opticians and dental surgeries coping with a torrent of demand from patients who previously could not afford treatment or essential appliances.

In its first full financial year, the total cost of the NHS in Scotland is nearly £42 million – around 2s 8d (13p) a week per head of population.

In 2017/18 the planned health spend in Scotland is £13.2 billion. This equates to approx £2,500 per person.