Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 17:32 UK

Timeline of the history of the NHS

The NHS is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Over the decades it has been transformed beyond all recognition. But what were the key milestones?

1948 - Creation of the NHS

Aneurin Bevan on the day the NHS started. Pic courtesy of Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust
The architect of the NHS was Labour's Aneurin Bevan

On 5 July, Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan formally launched the NHS. For the first time, health care became free to all.

1952 - Charges introduced

Patients started being charged one shilling for prescriptions. In England, it now stands at 7.10, although fees have been abolished in Wales and are being phased out in Scotland.

1958 - First mass vaccination programme

Polio and diphtheria jabs offered to under 15s. Before introduction, there were 8,000 cases of polio and 70,000 of diphtheria each year.

1961 - Pill becomes available

The launch of the contraceptive pill gives women control over how many children they have. Initially, it was only available to married couples, but the rules were relaxed six years later with the swinging sixties in full flow.

1962 - Birth of the modern hospital

NHS graphic
As the NHS turns 60, BBC News is giving it a health check. Watch out for reports, features and analysis on TV, radio and the web.

The Hospital Plan, put forward by Health Minister Enoch Powell, set out a 10-year vision for hospital building. Every population of 125,000 was to get a hospital - or district general hospital as they become known.

1967 - Abortion Act

Introduced by Liberal MP David Steel and passed by a free vote of MPs, it made abortion legal up to 28 weeks if a woman's mental or physical health was at risk. Limit reduced to 24 weeks in 1990.

1968 - UK's first heart transplant

Carried out in the National Heart Hospital in London, 18 doctors and nurses operated for seven hours on a 45-year-old man. The patient died after 46 days and another 10 years passed before the operation took off.

1972 - CT scanners used for first time

Under development for the previous five years, CT scanners started to be used on patients. The machines take pictures of the body to develop 3D images, revolutionising investigations of the body.

1978 - World's first test tube baby

On 25 July, the world's first "test tube baby" was born shortly before midnight in Oldham District General Hospital. Weighing 5lb 12oz (2.61 kg), Louise Brown was delivered by caesarean section.

1988 - Breast screening programme starts

Breast screening
Breast screening has helped to save thousands of lives

To reduce breast cancer deaths in women over 50, breast screening was introdcued with units set up across the country to provide mammograms to women. Screening, along with improved drug treatments, was estimated to have cut deaths by a fifth.

1990 - NHS and Community Care Act

The legislation introduces what became known as the NHS internal market with health authorities given their own budgets to buy care for local populations from hospitals.

1994 - Organ donor register created

NHS register set up to co-ordinate supply and demand. It was the result of a five-year campaign by John and Rosemary Cox whose son Peter died in 1989. He had asked for his organs to be used to help others.

2006 - Patient choice

Patients were given the choice of four or five hospitals, ending the long-held tradition of going where a GPs decides. The scheme has now been extended to include all hospitals in England. But approach not adopted elsewhere in the UK.

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