Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 12:04 UK
Enduring legacy of Aneurin Bevan
Bevan visits Sylvia Diggory, the first NHS patient, at Trafford General Hospital in 1948

Fifty years after his death in 1960, Aneurin Bevan remains one of Wales' most revered politicians.

The son of a Tredegar miner, he was a pioneering Labour politician who created the National Health Service.

Born in 1897, Bevan was one of 10 children, leaving school at the age of 13 to work in the local colliery.

His leadership qualities soon came to the fore, becoming chairman of his local lodge of the South Wales Miners' Federation at the age of 19.

Bevan's employers sacked him for being an agitator, but his fellow workers claimed victimisation and helped him win his job back.

He went to Central College in London for two years to study politics, economics and history, before returning to Tredegar in 1921.

Three years of unemployment were briefly interrupted with work at Bedwellty Colliery, but this was soon closed.

He was appointed a union official in 1926 and was a key miners' leader in south Wales during that year's General Strike.

Aneurin Bevan
Born Tredegar, 15 November, 1897
Left school at 13 and began work in a colliery
Won a seat on Monmouthshire County Council in 1928
Ebbw Vale MP (Tredegar was part of the constituency) from 1929 - 60
Married fellow MP Jennie Lee in 1934
Became minister for health in 1945
Founded the NHS in 1948
Elected deputy Labour leader in 1959
Died on 6 July, 1960

It's believed by some that the NHS, the model for state-run health care, was inspired by a community health scheme in Tredegar.

With tubercolosis and pneumonia rife in the 19th Century, the community established the Workmen's Medical Aid Society in the 1890s. Workers paid three old pence in every pound in exchange for a range of medical services.

Bevan became a Monmouthshire councillor in 1928, and was elected Labour MP for Ebbw Vale the following year.

After Labour's landslide election victory of 1945 following World War II, he was appointed Minister for Health, introducing the revolutionary National Insurance Act in 1946, followed by the National Health Service two years later.

At first, the concept of a National Health Service, free at the point of use, met considerable opposition. When the British Medical Association questioned doctors in 1948, 88% were opposed to the idea, concerned that they would lose their independence.

However, Bevan was able to win them round. By July 1948, 90% of doctors had joined up, and the NHS took over hospitals throughout the country. Family doctors were also provided across the nation.

But Bevan resigned in 1951, apparently over charges introduced for false teeth and spectacles, although the real catalyst was believed to be his opposition to the government's defence and foreign policy.

Remaining an active figure on the political scene, Bevan later became Shadow Foreign Secretary and deputy leader of the Labour Party before dying from cancer in July 1960.

His death shocked the nation, especially those in Wales whose lives had been transformed by the creation of the NHS.

Bevan is commemorated by a statue in Cardiff city centre, and a hospital bearing his name will be opened shortly in Ebbw Vale.

He was also an inspiration to rock heroes the Manic Street Preachers who named an album after a Bevan quote - This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours.

Bevan plaque for NHS anniversary
05 Jul 08 |  Wales
Bevan's memory lives in home town
01 Jul 08 |  South east
Transformed house to honour Bevan
02 Mar 08 |  Wales
Bevan hospital name honour call
30 Dec 07 |  South east


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