National Health Service Act 1946

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The National Health Service Act 1946[1] came into effect on 5 July 1948 and created the National Health Service in England and Wales. Though the title 'National Health Service' implies a single health service for the United Kingdom, in reality one NHS was created for England and Wales accountable to the Secretary of State for Health, with a separate NHS created for Scotland accountable to the Secretary of State for Scotland by the passage of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1947. Similar health services in Northern Ireland were created by the Northern Ireland Parliament through the Health Services Act (Northern Ireland) 1948.

The whole Act was repealed by the National Health Service Act 1977.[2]


According to s 1(1),

The Act provided for the establishment of a Central Health Services Council with 41 members to advise the Minister: the Presidents of Royal Colleges, councillors, and representatives of doctors, dentists, nurses midwives and pharmacists.

Hospital services were the responsibility of the Minister. Existing voluntary and local authority hospitals were transferred to the NHS. Teaching hospitals retained their Boards of Governors. Regional Hospital Boards were created on the basis that each region could "conveniently be associated with a university having a school of medicine". Under them were Hospital Management Committees, to manage individual hospitals or groups of hospitals, other than teaching hospitals, which retained their Board of Governors.

County Councils and county boroughs were designated as local health authorities. They were responsible for providing ambulance services, health centres, and for care, including dental care, of expectant and nursing mothers and of children under 5. They had responsibility for the supervision of midwives and the provision of health visitors and community nursing. They were also responsible for vaccination of persons against smallpox, and immunisation against diphtheria and other diseases.

Executive Councils were established to supervise General Medical And Dental Services, Pharmaceutical Services And Supplementary Ophthalmic Services. Provision was made for the establishment of Local medical committees, Local Pharmaceutical Committees, Ophthalmic Services Committees and Local Dental Committees to represent the practitioners in each area. The Medical Practices Committee was established to regulate General practitioners. The sale of the goodwill in medical practices was prohibited. The Dental Estimates Board was established


Most services were to be free, but there were powers to make charges for:

  • Medical appliances of a more expensive type than the prescribed type (and repairs to appliances)
  • Privately paying patients
  • Care of expectant and nursing mothers and of children under 5
  • Aftercare and domestic help
  • Dental and optical appliances of a more expensive type than the prescribed type
  • Replacement or repair of any dental or optical appliances if the need arose from lack of care

Mental Health

The functions of the Board of Control for Lunacy and Mental Deficiency were transferred to the Minister

See also


Full text of the Act (HTML version)[3]

  1. "National Health Service Act, 1946". Retrieved 28 July 2012. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. National Health Service Act 1977, Schedule 16 at
  3. "National Health Service Act, 1946". Socialist Health Association. Retrieved 8 March 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>