Hollywood actor Michael Sheen charts the life and times of his political hero Anuerin Bevan, the man who introduced Britain’s National Health Service in 1948.
The NHS had been talked about for some time. Liberals like fellow Welshman Lloyd George and William Beveridge had dreamt of a health service but it was the former miner from Tredegar who would make it a reality.
Born in 1897, Aneurin Bevan grew up in the poor working class communities of South Wales in the early part of the 20th Century. He saw at first hand the impact poverty had on people’s lives and their health but he also witnessed a different way of doing things – a unique system set up in his home town to provide cradle to grave health care through something called the Tredegar Medical Aid Society in which local workers paid regular sums to guarantee them and their dependents medical support when they needed it.
Bevan began his political career as a union official but quickly tired of union life and decided to get involved in party politics. His father had been a Liberal but was eventually convinced by socialism and this rubbed off on the young Bevan. In 1929, he was elected as the Labour MP for Ebbw Vale and such was his support in the valleys that he was re-elected unopposed at the 1931 General Election.
During the 1930s he clashed with Labour’s first Prime Minister Ramsey McDonald and was seen as something of a left wing rebel. In the war, he refused to support the coalition government of Tories, Liberals and Labour politicians, led by Winston Churchill. Instead he led a small band of rebel MPs who provided opposition to Britain’s war leader. Churchill viewed Bevan as dangerous and their clashes in the Commons were very heated.
After the war, to the surprise of many, Britain turned its back on the man who had won the war and elected a Labour Government. Clement Attlee became Prime Minister and he appointed Aneurin Bevan as his Health and Housing Minister. Bevan set about plans for the National Health Service in the face of huge opposition from doctors who felt threatened by the prospect of becoming employees of the State. Hundreds of private, charity and local authority hospitals were brought into national ownership and despite lots of hurdles, Bevan managed to open the first NHS hospital in Trafford, Manchester in July 1948.
The new service transformed the lives of millions of people across Britain and here, through archive, fresh testimony and some drama brought to life by actors Dyfan Rees (Anuerin Bevan) and Christopher Straulli (Winston Churchill) Michael Sheen tells the story of Nye Bevan: The Man Who Made the NHS.
The programme is produced by Ashley Byrne and Iain Mackness and is an MIM Production for BBC Radio Wales
Michael Sheen charts the life and times of his political hero, NHS founder Nye Bevan