The National Health Service (NHS) celebrates its 75th anniversary, as it has been assisting the general public with vital health care for decades.

When it first began in 1948, it was the first “universal health system” available to everyone, providing a free service at the point of delivery.

The NHS currently has around 1.4 million staff providing care in our communities, but it has also achieved many significant milestones in its existence, as reported by the PA news agency.

Some of the key NHS milestones as it celebrates 75 years of service

July 5, 1948

The NHS is launched by health secretary Aneurin Bevan at Park Hospital in Manchester – today known as Trafford General Hospital.

The British public become entitled to a free, comprehensive healthcare funded by general taxation.

At a minute past midnight, the first ever baby was born on the NHS at Amman Valley Hospital in Wales.

Aneira Thomas was named after the NHS’s founder, Mr Bevan.


Charging for prescriptions, dental services and spectacles began.

At the time prescription charges were one shilling, meanwhile the cost of a prescription now is £9.65.


The NHS launches a polio and diphtheria vaccinations programme.


The first UK kidney transplant takes place at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary involving identical 49-year-old twins.


The contraceptive pill is made available, initially only to married women.


Health minister Enoch Powell introduces his Hospital Plan to set out a vision to build a hospital in each area where more than 125,000 people lived.


Britain’s first heart transplant is carried out at the National Heart Hospital in Marylebone, London.


CT scans revolutionise how doctors can see the body. Computerised tomography (CT) scanners produce 3D images from a large series of 2D X-rays.


The world’s first IVF baby is born. Then known as a “test tube baby”, Louise Brown was born on July 25.


The NHS sees vast technological improvements from the introduction of MRI scanners and keyhole surgery.


The first Aids health campaign is launched.


The world’s first liver, heart and lung transplant is carried out at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.


The breast screening programme is introduced.


The NHS Organ Donor Register is launched.


NHS Direct is launched.

It has since been replaced by NHS 111 – this is the number people can call if they need help when they do not need to dial 999 for an emergency.


Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are given devolved health powers.


NHS walk-in centres are introduced.


The first successful gene therapy is carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

In the same year, the four-hour target for A&E departments is introduced.

This means that patients should be treated, admitted, discharged or transferred within four hours of arriving in the emergency room.

The target is still in use and seen by many as a barometer for how the health system as a whole is coping.


The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme is launched.


Twenty-year-old David Lomas becomes the first living organ donor in the UK as he donates part of his liver to his father Stephen, 50.


The HPV vaccination programme is launched against human papilloma virus to help prevent cervical and other types of cancer.


The Stroke Act FAST campaign is launched. FAST stands for Face Arm Speech Time, and is a simple test to help people recognise the signs of stroke and to call 999 if it is suspected.

In the same year, the health watchdog the Care Quality Commission is launched.


The Health and Social Care Act 2012 was first published, taking effect on April 1 2013.

Meanwhile, a surgical team at Leeds General Infirmary carries out the UK’s first hand transplant operation.


The NHS Friends and Family Test is introduced in 2013, which asks patients whether they would recommend hospital wards and A&E departments to their friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment.

Meanwhile the NHS introduces the Cancer Drugs fund to enable certain drugs to be fast-tracked for cancer patients.


Medics at Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust conduct the UK’s first double hand transplant.


NHS launches a trial for the PrEP medicine to prevent HIV infection.


The NHS celebrates its 70th year amid an ongoing row over funding.


The Covid-19 pandemic hits and causes widespread disruption across the NHS.

The first ever Covid-19 jab outside of a clinical trial is delivered in the health service.

In the same year, the NHS becomes the first health system in the world to commit to become carbon net zero.


A clinical trial in the NHS discovers that a cheap steroid, dexamethasone, can reduce deaths from Covid-19.


NHS England strikes a deal for the world’s most expensive drug with a price tag of £2.8 million that can offer babies and young children with metachromatic leukodystrophy the prospect of a normal life.

Also in 2022, the NHS conducts the first net zero operation at Solihull Hospital.

Meanwhile, the NHS is awarded the George Cross for the work staff performed during the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout its history.

Later that year, the first wave of mass walkouts by various staff groups begins in the dispute over pay.


The first ever Long Term NHS Workforce plan for England is launched.