Why a National Health Service

the part played by the Socialist Medical Association

D. Stark Murray



The year 1970 was the fortieth year of the Socialist Medical Association which has had a unique political history that seems worthy of some detailed study. The SMA was founded in 1930 for one purpose, the introduction of a national health service based on socialist principles: saw its ideas carried into effect in eighteen years and so is able in its fortieth year to look back not only at the initial struggle and success but to assess after another twenty-one years, the success of the National Health Service.

The band of doctors and other health workers who formed the SMA varied in their political views and might have opposed each other on some political issues but in fact never had a ‘split’ but remained steadfast in pursuit of one idea. From time to time diversionary movements may have attracted a few members but the members as a whole never wavered in their programme: and never had any doubt that they would achieve it by and through the Labour Party. They gained great strength over the years from the support of the whole Labour movement and from the recognition among its leaders that health had to have top priority.

Today’s members turn with pleasure to the verdict of an American historian, Almont Lindsey, given in his book, Socialised Medicine, that the ‘British National Health Service must be regarded as one of the great achievements of the twentieth century’. That pleasure is not one of complacency for the SMA knows that the health service will be protected, developed and improved only by as resolute a struggle in the remaining thirty years of the century as in the previous forty.