The NHS was launched in 1948. It was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth – one of the NHS’s core principles. With the exception of some charges, such as prescriptions, optical services and dental services, the NHS in England remains free at the point of use for all UK residents. This currently stands at more than 64.6 million people in the UK and 54.3 million people in England alone.
The NHS in England deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours. It covers everything, including antenatal screening, routine screenings (such as the NHS Health Check), treatments for long-term conditions, transplants, emergency treatment and end-of-life care. Responsibility for healthcare in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government respectively.
The NHS employs more than 1.5 million people, putting it in the top five of the world’s largest workforces, together with the US Department of Defence, McDonalds, Walmart and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
The NHS in England is the biggest part of the system by far, catering to a population of 54.3 million and employing around 1.2 million people. Of those, the clinically qualified staff include 150,273 doctors, 40,584 general practitioners (GPs), 314,966 nurses and health visitors, 18,862 ambulance staff, and 111,127 hospital and community health service (HCHS) medical and dental staff. The NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland employs 161,415; 84,000 and 66,000 people respectively.